Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gabriel's Birth Day, Part III

[Part II]

The third part of my labor (and birth!) with Gabe is the part where I feel like I lost it.

Up until then, I had been dealing with labor. Sure, I had bouts of self-doubt and wanting to give up, but I also chanted "I can do it. I can do it. I can do it!" over and over again after a desperate"I can't do it!" I was The Little Engine That Could, and as silly as it sounds, chanting "I can do it" filled me with confidence and, most of all, determination.

I found myself praying during contractions, too. I wasn't consciously praying, but the words just came out of my mouth: "Oh, God. Help me, God. Be with me, God. Please, God. I need you." I'd cry those words while rocking on the birthing ball, leaning against the bed. I felt desperate, overcome by the power of the contractions, but somehow those words comforted me. Despite the way the contractions literally took over my body, leaving me breathless, I still felt like I was coping with them. (It didn't hurt that my wonderful nurses and midwife would continually tell me how fabulously I was handling the contractions. Never underestimate the power of people believing in you.)

Which all changed around 11:45pm. Sleep-deprived and probably dehydrated from hours of not being able to keep liquids down, my body was worn out. Labor is such an intense task that time seems to move quickly - I was never bored or thinking about how long I'd been in labor (at least 12 hours at this point). I was completely present to this contraction, to this resting period, to Mike's words, to this moment. 

My body started to push at 11:45pm - I realized it only when I started grunting during contractions. Susan, my midwife, checked me and told me that I was almost fully dilated, but part of my cervix wasn't fully dilated (they call it an anterior cervical lip). Which meant she had to keep her fingers way up there and push the lip aside DURING A CONTRACTION. Having someone's fingers pushing on your cervix during a contraction? Probably one of the worst parts of labor. I'm not even kidding.

Even though I was 'losing it' - shouting and grunting and swearing - I never completely lost my cool and started being rude to anyone (except Mike. I told him to shut up once. And tried to bite his arm once.  I wish I was kidding. Sorry, babe.).  When the nurse poked the Doppler against my belly underwater during a contraction, I wanted to say, "Get that thing off me!" and when Susan stuck her hands up my hoo-ha during a contraction, I wanted to say, "Get the hell out of there!" Instead, I said, "That hurts." (Okay, maybe it was more like, "That! Hurts!") See? Labor is bad, but it wasn't so bad that I started kicking and yelling at people.

The pushing stage is a blur. A messy, makes-me-shudder-when-I-think-about-it blur. And not because it was fast. Oh no. Because it was just...painful. And long. Oh, so long. I started pushing around 11:45pm and he was born at 2:16am. That's two-and-a-half hours of yelling, grunting, and puuuuuushing with all my might.  

I'm not sure if it took so long because I started pushing too early or if I was just so worn out that I wasn't putting enough effort into my pushes - but I definitely look at this part of my labor and feel like I did something wrong. I'm okay with that, it was my first time after all. But, I feel like I let everyone down during this - I was doing so well and then...I pushed for. freaking. ever. Susan was looking at the clock, asking Wendi how long I had been pushing. Wendi advocated for me, telling Susan I hadn't had strong pushes until 12:30, so no need to worry. Everyone looked exhausted. I knew they wanted to go bed. Hell, I wanted to go to bed. I wasn't even thinking about the baby at this point, I just kept saying how I couldn't wait to sleep and eat. I was absolutely exhausted and after pushing for an hour-and-a-half - there didn't seem to be an end in sight. I just wanted to know that it would end at some point.

I had long periods of rest in between my pushing contractions - during which I'd drink water (I finally stopped throwing up) and ask them how much longer. They couldn't tell me. I joked with Susan couldn't she just pull the baby out of me? Wendi mentioned something about the morning and I said, "I'll have a baby by morning, right?" Wendi smiled and reassured me that I'd be done with labor by the morning. I was joking, but I did need to think that, at some point, I'd be done. My body wouldn't be experiencing this intense stretching and effort.

During contractions, I pushed with all my might while Susan, Wendi, and Mike encouraged with, "Push push push. Good! Give this one all you've got! Push as hard as you can!" In the back of my mind, I knew that I needed to listen to my body for cues like how long to push. I did it my way for a while, but then tuned into Wendi's voice. Her words were the most helpful in mustering all the strength I had. Still, I felt like I was letting them down. They'd be yelling, "Push as hard as you can!" And once I cried in desperation afterward, "I am. I am trying so hard. I am pushing as hard as I can." A few times, I'd start to hyperventilate while pushing. Susan would remind me to breathe slowly and I'd relax a bit.

It was during this stage that I remember thinking, "Just cut this baby out of me!"  and realizing that if someone suggested a c-section, I would definitely want it just because I'd be done. It would be over. No more pushing without making progress or frustration or feeling like my body was being ripped apart or complete exhaustion. Labor is effing hard work.

I felt like I should be making more progress. I pushed for a LONG TIME before I felt his head move lower into the birthing canal. And then I pushed for a LONG TIME where his head would start to come out during the push and then slide back in at the end of the push. I knew from childbirth class that this was good and normal - my body was just stretching so it could accomodate an entire baby coming out. Mike could look down over my shoulder and see the baby's head poking out - and I reached down and felt it. (Which was slightly reassuring, but also slightly, "What the heck is that thing??" since it felt soft and wrinkly. I didn't expect it feel like that.)

And then, the crowning, aka: the ring of fire. Oh, yes. Since I was completely unmedicated, I got to feel every single sensation of labor - including when the baby's head was crowning and my crotch felt like it was on fire. "It's burning! It hurts!" I yelped. His head stayed there for a while, and I was encouraged. The baby was going to come out. After hours of pushing, there really was a baby and he really was coming! At 1:45am, Wendi called the baby nurse down and told me, "You'll have a baby by 2."

I was elated. I gritted my teeth, narrowed my eyes, bit my lip, and pushed like crazy.  My hair stuck to my forehead, wet from sweat and water. I was focused. I wanted to be DONE. We tried all different kinds of positions during labor. I wanted to try squatting in the tub, but Susan recommended I lean against Mike on my side and brace one leg against the tub. I pulled my other leg up while pushing. I also apparently bit my lips really hard while pushing, because they were swollen for a day.

I swore. A lot. Then I'd apologize. I screamed. Loudly. Then I'd apologize. They reassured me that I didn't need to apologize and even told me I needed to be louder. So I was. Then they looked at each other and closed my door. The yelling actually helped me push harder and blow off steam. And I'll be honest, it was sort of fun and a bit freeing to shout the f-word while pushing. My childbirth classes emphasized being calm and relaxed, so I felt like yelling so loudly was me losing my composure and failing. But when it came time to push? All bets were off. I couldn't not yell.

Wendi measured the baby's heart rate with a Doppler, and Susan looked concerned. She told me we'd have to get out of the tub, because the baby, who had done so well during all of this laboring, had a low heart rate of 90. I looked at her, bewildered, "How am I supposed to get out of the tub?" I had a baby's head sticking out of me. How was I supposed to walk anywhere? I wanted so badly to stay out of the bed. I really didn't want to have anything to do with the hospital bed, aside from when my water was broken and when I was initially hooked up to the fetal monitor. And I desperately didn't want to get out of the water.

I don't even know what she answered, but with the next contraction, I pushed with every ounce of strength in body and suddenly there he was. Our baby was in the water and then I was holding him. I can't even describe how fast it happened - hours of pushing and just seeing a tiny bit of head and then, suddenly, he came out in one push.

Seeing him come out of me, Mike catching him and lifting him up to us...words cannot describe how absolutely miraculous it was.

Holding him for the first time. So precious.

He cried immediately, and we held him. He wrapped his fingers around mine, and everyone exclaimed how good he looked. How healthy he was. How wonderfully perfect he was.

Woah. This was inside of me? AWE. SOME.

I looked up at Mike, who had tears in his eyes, and kissed him. "We did it. I can't believe we did it."

Alert Baby.

I looked down and said, "Well, he is a boy!" I examined his fingers and his toes and his eyes. Those big, shining eyes. So alert. I took all of him in, soaking up the first moments with our son. Cuddling him to myself. Instantly feeling like a mother. Realizing this little body was the one I'd be cuddling with and taking care of for years to come.

Where am I?

I got out of the tub to deliver, uh, everything else and they took him for only a minute or two to do his Apgar scores (9/10! - "almost unheard of," said Wendi). While they were stitching up a few small tears, I held my son. I gazed into his eyes and he gazed into mine.

I love him already! Mushy.

"You are healthy. I knew you'd be healthy," I told him. After many months of being told that this might be wrong, or that might be wrong - and finally refusing to take part in any more testing because I knew he was healthy and feared the tests more than what they'd reveal - my heart soared. I felt like I fought for him. I was proud of myself for standing up for my baby. 

Hanging out for the first time.

We spent two hours like this. Just holding my son against me. He easily found my breast and tried to latch on. I cried a little in disbelief at how much my heart soared with love for him.

Around 4:30am, I started to doze off, so I called Wendi back. She weighed and measured Gabe (6 lbs, 13 oz, 19.5 inches) and took him away for his bath. He was gone less than an hour, but I couldn't sleep. I missed him already.

I've been writing this for nearly three hours, tearing up at times. Nothing could have prepared my heart for this. Nothing.

We Are Family.
Our little family
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