You are, right now, cuddling with your Nana. You were born 12 days ago, on August 7, 2009. I have just fed you and we played “see the baby” in the mirror and then “look at mommy” and then you started fighting taking a nap. You did this yesterday too, at about the same time. You are so enthralled with what there is to see in the world that you are loath to shut your eyes! You eat everything you see up with these big inquisitive blue eyes�I wish I knew what you were thinking.
On Tuesday, August 4, I went into early labor with you. I woke up around midnight or one in the morning with contractions that started out every 20 minutes apart and then gradually got further and further apart. When I woke up that morning, around 6am, I was bleeding. I called Diana H., our doula, immediately and she assured me that I was losing my mucus plug and that everything was okay. I thought it was false labor; hindsight, however, brings clarity. I also had a prenatal appointment that day with O.L., one of the midwives. She was concerned I was already 4 days post-due and wanted to schedule a prostaglandin application for Thursday night. We scheduled it for 7pm on Thursday, August 6, to encourage you to arrive.
I continued to get contractions through the following day, Wednesday, August 5, but nothing that established itself. By the morning of August 5, I had lost the mucus plus entirely, but the contractions continued to be sporadic at best. I coped with them by rocking back and forth or by hanging on to the kitchen counters. I also hummed a lot through them.
Early Thursday morning, August 6, the contractions settled into a pattern that kept getting closer and closer together. I thought I was going to have you that day, since it was a full moon. Your daddy said good-bye to me that morning and I remember we talked about what to do if the contractions got closer together throughout the day. He was in charge of a big project at work that was releasing that night and had to make plans for someone else to cover it if need be. I read books that day and watched a movie. I even went down to the pool for a little while (I spent a portion of every day the last 4 weeks I was pregnant with you in the pool; you liked that a lot and almost always gave me a few pushes or rib kicks while I floated around). I went to the chiropractor that day around 4pm convinced I was in real early labor; my contractions were about 15 minutes apart, but labor slowed down durring and after my visit. I suppose that just proves the adage that a “thinking” woman cannot labor. Diana had always told us you had to turn off the thinking part of your brain and go with the intuitive part of your brain to birth a baby; I remember thinking about her comment after I got home and the contractions spaced out to 30 minutes. I called Diana again and checked in with O. O told me to take a warm bath.
I drew the bath water and called your Nana so that I would stay awake. I was so tired because the contractions had kept me up most of the night before and I hadn’t been able to nap the way O and Diana suggested all day because of the contractions. The bath must have done it, after that, the contracttions started getting closer and closer together. I called your dad and told him to wrap up and get home. I called O. I called Diana. I lay on the bed upstairs, but I couldn’t sleep. Every time a contraction hit, I had to get up and walk around. Lexi followed me, as she had been doing, even sleeping in the bed next to me (or trying to). I started tracking the contractions around 6:30pm that night. They were about 8-10 minutes apart.
Your daddy got home around 7:30pm. We called O, she told me to get Diana to our house and that she had cancelled the prostaglandin appointment for us. She listened to one of my contractions and talked me through it. At the end she said “now take a deep breath, just like that”. Just like that was her refrain. I found it so comforting. I labored probably another 30 minutes before we called Diana. I wasn’t sure if she should come, but I guess she heard me and hung up and headed over. I got into the shower for a little while; the warm water felt so good!
At this point, things get very, very fuzzy for me. I know that Avery was there; he put on music and danced with me through contractions. I would sit on the couch in between them, with Lexi at my feet and Avery either sitting next to me or gathering things to go to the hospital. Then, a contraction would roll up on me and I would motion him over. He was come and we would dance through the wave. Then, I would sit back down or walk back and forth in the living room. I wasn’t sure how long it went on. Sometimes Diana would come and help me, or she would offer suggestions or something to drink. Finally, she said we had to go because contractions were 2 minutes apart and the baby was coming. I remember Lexi wouldn’t crate up and I had to do that, but she and Avery did everything else. I was very happy when she let me keep the TENS machine, which I had been using to cope with the contractions, on in the car.
In the car, I was surprised to see that it was past midnight. I had been laboring actively for well over 4 hours, probably almost 5 when we got in the car. Avery drove like a controlled mad-man to the hospital, calling your grandparents (both sets!) on the way. I kept asking him if he’d called and he kept telling me to focus, putting him hand on my leg through my contractions. Being confined in the car and unable to move and dance made the contractions more painful and harder to cope with, but somehow we pulled up to the hospital in about 15 minutes. (Considering it’s a 25 or 30 minute trip at best, I can only imagine how fast he went!) We parked in the emergency red zone and Avery helped me make my way as quickly as possible to the entrance. I guess he’d called the night nurses before we arrived because they seemed to expect us. I remember the nurse who answered the call box was named Shannon as well and Diana laughed about it. I had two or three contractions on the way down to the nurses’ station and Diana, Avery, and I danced our way through them.
Checking in is a big blur. O was there pretty quickly and the nurse kept asking question after question. They wanted to monitor you and me for 20 minutes and then told me I could walk around. O checked me and I was completely effaced and 4 cm dilated. I think it was longer than that, but time, at this point, was irrelevant. The contractions kept rolling over me, oceanic waves, rolling, rolling, rolling. Avery or Diana or O would dance me through them. Finally, they got me on a telemetary fetal monitor so I could walk. I was walking and pacing through the contractions. Then, I was sitting on the birthing ball, rocking back and forth, which felt good. O felt like we’d have a baby soon. But soon, when was that going to happen? At some point, they came in and we had to move down the hall to a new room. Apparently, I was being too loud and the mom next door to me was on seizure watch. So, we walked down to the new room at the end of the hall.
I think at this point, O or Diana suggested I get in the tub. Oh, it felt so lovely! Diana kept the shower head on, running it up and down my belly and legs in the water. I think Avery was sleeping at this point. He, too, had been up over 24 hours at this point because he had not slept the night before when I kept having contractions. I was in the tub a long time and this nurse kept coming in to check my blood pressure. At one point, they even had me talk to a doctor. A doctor, not O! He tried to get me to get on narcotics because he said my bp was too high. I had been told it was 150/100 and I almost let him convince me, but Diana said it would interrupt the endorphins and I didn’t have to if I didn’t want to. I called for O to come down and do a consult (she’d been up much longer than I had, having been delivering babies like crazy the whole week! She’d gone to another room to try and get some sleep). She came back and stayed at that point, I remember her saying that if it took her being next to me to keep my bp down, then that’s what she’d do. I was so thankful. I didn’t like the nurse on the morning shift who kept taking my bp during contractions and who kept bothering me.
I don’t know what time of morning it was, but it was after the day nurse, Marie, came on duty that O checked me again. Barely 6 cm dilated after several hours at the hospital. O was worried because I was getting tired and my contractions were starting to get further apart. She also said that the scar tissue on my cervix was holding things up and I should get pitocin. She left and I talked to Diana. Diana told me she’d seen O break up scar tissue before, so that’s what O did, she broke up the rest of the scar tissue and it hurt like fire! She also finally convinced me to get pitocin to increase the strength of the contractions and get your head down on to my cervix, you were still so far up in my pelvis! I finally relented and they hooked me up to the IV. At that point, I remember the contractions getting harder and closer together. I also remember that everyone cleared out but Avery and Diana. I don’t really remember too much of the next few hours. I remember lunging through contractions, I remember being on the ball, I remember the waves crashing in to me again and again. I remember Avery holding me and then Diana. I remember Diana behind me on the ball, holding me through the contractions. I remember the contractions feeling like surges, like waves, I remember trying to think of them as orgasms, since that’s what they were only stronger and more definitive. Perhaps that embarrasses you, but it helped me to cope because the strength of the contractions was getting stronger and stronger. At one point, I almost started convulsing, just trembling with one particularly strong one, and I heard Diana say “Baby doesn’t like that Shannon, try to relax a little more” and I focused on that, on her voice, on her arms, on being held by the waves that overcame me. I knew Marie came in, dimly knew, every so often to increase the pitocin. I got up to 12 units, which O later told me was the most she’d seen anyone take without an epidural.
Diana and Avery held this space for me for very long time and O came back to check me. Only 8 cm (later, they would tell me it was 7, who knows?). O looked at me and said, “I need moore from you, stronger contractions, which we can get either with or without an epidural.” They also thought that perhaps you were presenting incorrectly because, by this time, I really felt you inside of me, moving down along my back. Usually, back pain means the baby’s back in against the mother’s spine. In this case, it meant your big head was pressing into my spine. We didn’t know that then or perhaps O would have suggested the c-section sooner. I finally relented to the epidural, I could not withstand the pitocin any longer, and they withdrew the pitocin so the anesthesiologist could insert the epidural. I was so scared. Avery was with me, he held me as I sat on the side of the bed, by feet on his thighs our heads pressed together; he held me as they told me not to move or I could be paralyzed. He talked to me, somethinng, I don’t remember, images of Belize I think, while they inserted the needle and then the catheter of the drugs into my spine. I felt cold. And then heavy. And then my legs went dead. O had sworn I’d be able to push you out, to feel you enter the world, but I couldn’t imagine how. I could not feel anything. Every hour or so, Marie and then the new nurse after her would come in and roll me over with Diana’s help. Avery would sit by me and hold me hand. I remember sleeping, I was so very, very tired. When they put in the epidural, I’d been in active labor for almost 18 hours, 3 of which was with pitocin. It would be another 4 or 5 before you were born.
At one point, I told Diana I really, really felt the urge to push, I felt so full. Marie came in and checked me, but still only 8 cm. She said “Do NOT push, under any circumstances”. O came in with Dr. R. and Dr. R. broke your water in an effort to get your head on my cervix. Both she and O said you had been swimming in quite the ocean! I didn’t even feel the water as it gushed over my legs, that’s how numb I was. They had upped the epidural because I was feeling the pain of the pitocin. Everything below my waist was a wasteland of feeling, expect I could feel you filling my pelvis. I remember encouraging you, telling you to butt your head against me, like a little ram or antelope, to push, push, push your way out. And I really thought you were, I really believed it. I really wanted to believe it.
Around 4pm or 4:30, O came in to check me. Before she checked, she said she hoped for a miracle. Avery and Diana helped hold my heavy legs. I didn’t really feel her as she checked, I felt so full of you and so certain I could start pushing in just moments. My cervix had swollen to 6cm.
How could this be? I had trained to have you, I had assembled a support team to help me push you out into the world naturally, and now I lay completely drugged and numb, helpless, unable to push you anywhere! I felt so very, very helpless, like you must feel when you’re crying to tell us you need something. O basically said your head was too big for my pelvis, that a swollen cervix was a sure sign of this fact and an indication that my body was beginning to give up. We had two choices: undergo an emergency c-section and meet you with open arms or allow me to continue laboring until either you or I or both of us were dead.
I bawled. I was so frustrated and scared. Avery and I talked, him holding me and telling me it would be okay. Diana held my hand while Avery went to tell my dad. My dad came in and encouraged me. Then, everyone cleared out and gave Avery and I a minute to process everything. I was so scared, so anxious to meet you, but so, so scared. I’d never had a major surgery before and I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want to feel pain, but I wanted to feel you come into the world.
Then, the room was abuzz. They wheeled me into the OR and began their preparations. They upped my drugs, they moved me to a new table, they put up a screen, they brought in Avery. He was all scrubbed up and in a mask. They asked if I could feel a cool alcohol swab. When I said no, they started in. I smelt something burning, as they cauterized the incision. O and Avery were at my head, holding me, Avery whispering all kinds of encouragement and imagery into my ear. I felt pulling. I felt tugging. But no pain. O kept saying “that’s your baby coming into the world, feel her come, you said you wanted to feel her and here she is.” Then, one last tug and you were out. They told me, but I knew, but I couldn’t hear you. I was so frantic. Avery was away from me, O too, looking at you. And you were so quiet at first. And then. And then. I heard you. You howled. Your lusty little scream made me just cry. I wanted to hold you, but I couldn’t move and they were sewing me up anyway. O and Avery brought you to me and put your cheek to mine and that’s how I met you. Your cheek was on one side and Avery’s on the other and I just wanted to hold you so badly, but I couldn’t move. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to look you over, but I couldn’t.
And then you were gone. Avery took you to the nursery for them to do their nursery thing while the doctors sewed me up. I felt so empty and alone, I wanted to hold you so badly but I couldn’t.
Finally, they wheeled me in to recovery. And, after ages, Avery brought you back to me. And the nurse showed me how to nurse you. But I couldn’t feel you properly because my hands were still so numb. I wanted to put you naked to me, to my chest, but I couldn’t move or command my hands to do more than hold and nurse you. You were so smart already, nursing so quickly, and so precious. I could not believe that your daddy and I made you. He sat with me, holding my hand, looking at you. I could have nursed you forever.
The rest of the night is fog. The drugs, oh, I hated that they took those first hours from us. You were drugged too, as those drugs pass on to baby, and you were very groggy. I didn’t get my first proper, undrugged look at you until the next morning. And my first memory of that morning is watching your daddy fall in love with you, just looking at you in your bassinet like you were spun glass. He asked how he would know you were alive, he was so taken by your stillness in your sleep. And he and I just gazed at you as you slept, this perfect little being we had created and nurtured and waited to meet.
On one hand, I’m so thankful that I had the option of a c-section because I literally would be dead, and you along with me, had it been even 100 years ago. On the other, it’s not what I had planned or wanted or envisioned. My birth plan became a birth fantasy! What should I learn from how you entered our lives? I’m not sure yet. O told me that clearly I didn’t need a natural birth process to be empowered; she thought that perhaps I needed to be humbled, to learn that even with all the research and homework done, life doesn’t come out the way we plan. And while you might not have arrived exactly how I planned it, you came out exactly as I dreamed and hoped. And I lived to see you. I lived to build a life with your daddy and you. And I’m very thankful for that.