In the interest of getting this posted and off my plate, I am going to post this unedited and unfiltered and very long version. It’s been written in several fits over the past few days, so please bear with me through any typos, weird phrasings, etc., etc. Right now I have a few more important things on my hands (or at least one very big important thing), so I’m sure you can understand. 🙂
We were beginning to think our little Pipsqueak would never show up. I’d tried 95 percent of the old wives’ tales out there, and nothing seemed to be working. The little guy was still pleasantly cradled on his side, and while I was progressing in dilation, he wasn’t moving much.
At 41 weeks and 5 days, my midwife gave me the go ahead and encouragement to give castor oil a shot. I was advised to drink one 4 ounce bottle in two doses two hours apart. I took the first as I was leaving the birth center, “mixed” into a Coke. Kind of like mixing oil & water, except horrible. The taste isn’t pleasant, but it’s the texture that really gets you. The second dose I mixed into a smoothie, which thankfully at least went down relatively easy, though I’d already begun to associate the smell and taste with the first experience and what was about to happen.
A few hours after the second dose, I had my first, well, side effect of the castor oil. And since all birth stories basically fall under the category of “too much information,” I can tell you that after having been fairly constipated for the past nine-plus months, it actually was kind of a relief. The subsequent ones were not, and by the end of the night, I knew there was a ver slim chance I’d be able to force myself to do it again two days later if this first go-round didn’t work.
I awoke at 3 a.m. with mild contractions, but I had little luck keeping them going with any consistency. Still, it was something, and I couldn’t help but get my hopes up. I went to the chiropractor, and they taped up my belly to encourage Pippin to move into the right position.
I spent the day bouncing on a ball and walking around with T hoping the contractions would pick up. They weren’t doing much, but eventually I did develop a strange and fairly terrible pain in my left side, like the worst side stitch you’ve ever had. The midwives advised us to come on in, and so we did. They checked me, and I was dilated to a 4, same as my appointment the day before. They told me to go home, eat some food and try to get some rest.
My dad brought us over some Panera while I tried to relax in the bath with little success. The side pain abated a little enough for me to eat, but swiftly returned. The pain was so bad that it caused me to vomit, for the first time in my pregnancy. I didn’t even have time to make it to the bathroom, but thankfully spotted the empty Panera sack & saved us a major bout of carpet cleaning.
So we headed back to the birth center. I was dilated to a 5 by then, having contractions along with the now excruciating side pain, and struggling, to say the least. They didn’t want to keep us unless they were sure we were progressing quickly and far enough that we would be more comfortable laboring at the birth center than at home. They gave me a shot of basically strong antihistamines to help me relax. I was able to doze on the way home and conked out in bed for a little while before the pain returned, ten-fold. I’m not really a screamer, but I let out a shriek. Again, no time to make it to the bathroom, so I grabbed my trash can, emptied it onto the floor, and promptly vomited the little bit I had left in my stomach.
So off we went to the birth center again, where they allowed us to stay this time, as I was now dilated to a six. This was as the 20th was crossing into the 21st of March. I immediately went into the tub and found some relief from the side pain but increasing pain from contractions. They also made me a mixed berry smoothie that would have been really super awesome if I had felt at all like eating. T did his best to keep me drinking both it & water, though.
It was in the tub that I learned I would not be a silent laborer or even a quiet laborer as I had expected. Quite the contrary. They worked with me to get my tones low instead of high & squealy, and with less success to breath through them instead of vocalizing since vocalizing takes a lot of energy (at least the way I was doing it). I tried, but at some point, you kind of develop an “Eff you, I’m going to do what I want” attitude, even if you know they’re right and/or trying to help.
From this point onward, things get a little hazy time-wise. The first time I got out of the tub to use the restroom, I had a fleeting thought of closing the door and asking T to avert his eyes before I basically said to myself, “Screw it, he’s going to see a heck of a lot more than this by the time we’re done.” He actually swears I used the restroom in front of him at home before we left, and that’s how he knew it was definitely time to get to the birth center. I have no recollection of this, which also probably speaks to the fact that it was time to get to the birth center.
At some point, they started forcing juice on me, since I didn’t feel like eating — mostly because I was afraid I’d vomit again. I have never hated apple juice so much in my life, but it was better than the Coke they made me drink closer to delivery. I’m not sure when I stopped going back into the tub, but they suggested IV fluids because my energy was starting to fade. It took a few tries to get the IV in, but at that point, it would have taken quite a bit more to phase me.
They would check my cervix occasionally to see where I was and where Pippin was, and they were able to tell that his head was slightly off-kilter to where it needed to be. So that’s when we started the circus of different labor positions.
For a while, I labored on the toilet, which was my least favorite place in the world to labor. I got to labor laying down on the bed for a while, with T holding me, which was my favorite way to labor, if I can say I have a favorite way to labor. I think I even dozed off between some of the contractions, though that did make waking up to each new contraction way more annoying. I remember wanting to bite T’s arms a few times during the strongest parts, but I think I mostly abstained from doing so. Probably weird, but true.
The senior midwife, who I like to refer to as The Closer, came in during this period and offered just the dose of no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point direction I needed. I was so tired of everyone telling me how close I was when I’d been close for literally hours. She never said that but instead would give me basically short-term tasks. She suggested they break my water, and then told me I needed to go labor on the toilet for five contractions.
And that was the first time I really, really, really broke down & sobbed, because I hated that effing toilet so much. Little did I know what I had coming. After that, with Pip’s head still slightly turned and preventing him from progressing, they moved to a new tactic: lunges. That’s right. I was doing deep lunges during contractions, and it was pretty much the worst thing ever. Thank god I had T supporting me because no Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper or P90X workout can prepare you for labor lunges, folks. (I mean, maybe they did, because I actually had the muscle strength to do lunges, but you know what I’m saying.)
I think I begged to move back to the bed after a few rounds of those, and the midwives eventually let me. But then they were wanting me to start thinking about pushing, as I think we’d all given up on the kiddo moving down on his own. I think The Closer even told me as much at one point. So I was on my side, with my legs pulled back into basically a squatting position, and they told me to push when I felt like pushing. I had no idea what it was supposed to feel like, so eventually I just got tired of contractions and got stubborn and started trying to push. And finally the baby started moving, little by little.
And let me tell you, pushing is the weirdest, most bizarre sensation. Each time, I’d start the push, and then my body would hit a point & do a little on its own, until I ran out of strength. It was actually really disconcerting at first, but then I figured that was probably what it was supposed to feel like, so I just went with it. And yes, if you’re wondering, it does feel similar to trying to force out a bowel movement, but not quite. It more feels like you’re going to accidentally push out a bowel movement while doing everything else. Which happens all the time. And I’d prepared myself for such a thing. So I have to admit I’m a little disappointed after all that mental energy I put into being OK with pooping during labor that it didn’t even happen (at least that no one has admitted to me).
So anyway, back to pushing. I’d asked several times if I could get into the tub again, but the midwives didn’t want me to change positions since the position I was in seemed to be doing the trick. They told me I probably could eventually, but I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I might not get to have one. But then The Closer came back in, and asked T if I wanted a water birth. He told her yes, and BAM, we were moving toward the tub.
Pushing was still very difficult, but it was such a relief to get in the water, and that made it easier. All in all, I think I pushed for half an hour on the bed and half an hour in the tub. Once in the tub, after a few pushes, I was able to reach down and feel the baby’s head, which gave me a huge boost of motivation that we really were for sure absolutely almost there. Having a goal beyond “endure this” and something I could physically do to make a difference was an incredible change. I don’t know how many more pushes it took, and I swear I was dealing with that ring of fire thing everyone talks about for way more contractions than I wanted to, but eventually I felt his head give way. And it was AMAZING. But I still had to get his body out. It took a few more pushes because I was so tired, but when his whole body came out, it was the biggest sense of relief I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’d had my eyes closed through 90 percent of the birthing process, but my eyes were wide open when they finally put him in my arms.
And T was right there, looking down at us, and I remember not being able to tell who I wanted to look at more, him or the baby, because I was so in love and amazed with this little guy on my chest, but also so in love with T, who’d helped me make him and get him here.
There was some scrambling to get a picture of us right after he was born, which was surprisingly amusing. I looked up & realized I had a whole crowd of midwives and nurses who had helped us deliver, and I immediately got a little self-conscious about how I was going to look in that first picture. And sure enough, they are not my favorite pictures in the world, not the least of which that it looks like I’m sitting in a tub of blood, but I’m glad we have them nonetheless.
After a few minutes, they clamped the cord & I handed our little guy off to T so we could take care of the placenta & get me cleaned up. Apparently he came out with his fist by his cheek (or “superman’d his way out, as one friend put it), which made it even more amazing that I had one tiny literal tear that they considered not even stitching (though eventually settled on two just to be safe). They told me I had “really good control” with the pushing, but I think it was more a case of, “I was really, really exhausted & didn’t have the energy to push him out too fast.”
Now, just about every labor (or so I’m told) has its “I can’t do this moment.” I remember having this moment at least four times for much longer than a moment. During these several miserable phases, I vaguely remember begging T for help — literally begging. I kept hoping he’d say, “OK, this is enough, let’s head to the hospital,” or that one of the midwives would say, “You know what? She’s done. Let’s get her transferred.” Every time I said, “I need help,” I was pleading with them to let me off the hook. I know they knew what I was asking for, but they did not listen to me one single time. The notion was never even entertained by anyone besides me. Maybe T had his moments, but he never made them known. Every time, he told me I was doing an amazing job and that I was strong, and every time I said, “I can’t do it,” he would reply adamantly that I was doing it. I honestly feel like I did a fairly mediocre job with the labor experience, but T was a rockstar. Afterwards, one of the midwives actually asked him if he’d been a labor coach before, and I’m now considering hiring him out as a doula. There is literally no way I would have made it through everything without him there by my side the entire time. I’m convinced his work was just as hard as mine, if in a slightly different way. While I was in sort of a trance the whole time, he was fully there and witness to all the pain and exhaustion, which if you knew how tender-hearted T is, is basically torture.
And now, post-birth, he continues to be awesome. When I’ve been weepy and exhausted due to hormone fluctuation and everything else, he has been nothing short of wonderful. I truly could not have asked for nor even designed a better partner in this adventure. I am so, so, so lucky.
As for the labor and birth experience itself, I was asked pretty quickly if I’d go the unmedicated route again. Let me first preface this with the fact that I believe every woman should have the birth experience she wants no matter what that birth is, and I believe every woman should be informed enough about the pros and cons of all the options to make the best decision for herself.
As for me, in the end, I am glad I chose the unmedicated route, despite the 31 hours of labor and the begging to be taken to the hospital (if not in so many words) and the two extra weeks of pregnancy. If Pippin’s head had been in the right position, all of those problems very likely would have disappeared. And as someone who wanted to avoid interventions like pitocin and an epidural and a C-section, and knowing that a typical hospital situation very well might have led to all of those things given the specifics of my situation, I’m glad that I had other options and a team of people to support me in doing my best to adhere to my original wishes (rather than my “in-the-worst-pain-of-my-life” wishes).
After the birth, we had more than an hour basically all to ourselves, just cuddling together in bed as a new family. I wasn’t hooked up to anything, and Pippin was alert and precious and immediately ours. He wasn’t whisked away to be poked and prodded and weighed. All necessary vitals were done right on my chest in those initial moments (which is a practice many hospitals are moving toward). We had enough time to take a little nap together as a family, and while we could have stayed longer, we were ready to get home and left around 7:30 p.m., as soon as they could get through the paperwork to get us discharged. While the next few days proved quite a transition (which I will write about at a later date), getting to sleep in our own bed together that night with Pippin right by our side was wonderful.
While I can confidently say I am happy we did a natural birth, I still can’t answer with a confident yes yet if I’d do it again this way, to be honest, because everything is still very fresh. If I could guarantee the next kiddo would have his or her head in the proper position, then I’d probably be all for it. The thought of another labor like this one makes me a little more wary, but luckily I don’t have to make any decisions for some time yet. For now, I can simply revel in our new, brilliant little family, and the ever-deepening love I have for both of my guys.