This is the second part of my birth story with The Colonel, at least as I remember it. My memory gets a bit fuzzy in spots, probably because of all the coping going on with the completely drug-free labor I signed myself up for. OMG, THE COPING. If you missed the first part, here it is. Oh, and the disclaimer I laid out in the first post still stands.
So, where were we? Oh right, I was all checked in to triage, dilated to four centimeters and 80-90% effaced and we were headed for a labor and delivery suite. A corner suite, I found out, which sounded cool until I got in there and realized: 1) It’s just another room, and 2) I, quite literally, had other pressing matters and could’ve cared less about the desirability of my room’s location.
No sooner had I gotten in the room and another contraction hit. I leaned over the bed and let it pass, realizing as I stared down at the blanket that The Colonel was going to be born here. Crystal, our L&D nurse, started asking me questions between contractions. Couldn’t for the life of me tell you what they were, but I think I gave the right answers. I remember she kept referring to the baby as “Colonel,” rather than “The Colonel,” (such as “Colonel sounds good” and “I’m just going to see how Colonel’s doing”) and I remember thinking, “that’s WRONG.” But, I give her credit for rolling with our baby’s nickname.
Though I’d love to describe the next few hours in some flowing narrative, they’re honestly a bit of a blur. Basically what I remember is working through my contractions sitting at the foot of the bed on a birthing ball. As I felt the contraction hit, I’d grab two handles at the foot of the bed and lean forward, taking long, deep breaths and exhaling each one very forcefully, like I was trying to push the pain and pressure of the contraction out with my breath. At the same time, Tammy, Ron or my Mom would be behind me, applying counterpressure to my hips — the more forcefully, the better. As the contraction passed, whoever wasn’t helping with the counterpressure would give me sips of water or encourage me to suck on a popsicle. One of the biggest life savers were the ice-cold wet washcloths that my team constantly kept draped over my neck. Future moms, take note of the potential awesomeness of ice-cold washcloths on your skin during labor! Crystal stayed close, just coming in to measure The Colonel’s heart rate occasionally. With my awesome birth team, there really wasn’t much for her to do.
And this whole routine worked quite well. I was totally handling the contractions. No, they weren’t comfortable, but it was entirely manageable. I remember at one point, Tammy told me, “You’re in the most intense part now, but it’s also the shortest.” And I thought, she’s talking about transition! Transition, the big scary phase of labor where they talk about how women throw up, get shaky, experience ruthless contractions, think they can’t do it. I was in transition already? And holding myself together?
Well, I was, but it was early transition. There was more to come. And the “holding myself together” thing was destined to fray a bit.
At some point, we moved into the bathroom to try laboring on the toilet. I might’ve been in there to pee, anyways, but all I know is I went from the birth ball to the toilet. Things were getting significantly more intense, but laboring on the toilet felt good, relatively speaking. I think it may have been because the toilet opening relieved some of the pressure I’d had when sitting.
There were more cold washcloths, and more leaning in to contractions using the bar along the wall. More sips of water, more popsicle. The lights were off in the bathroom, and the dimness felt right. My forceful exhalations during contractions became more of a guttural moaning. It was tight quarters in there, with Tammy and Ron and me. Crystal would come in every so often to check The Colonel, who was always happy as a clam and in zero distress whatsoever. Lucky kid. I couldn’t say as much. Distress and I were getting better acquainted with every passing minute.
After a while, I started getting this feeling like I wanted to push, so the doctor came in and checked me. I wasn’t quite fully dilated, so they couldn’t give me the okay. I felt trapped and a little frantic; I didn’t know if I could stop myself from pushing. Tammy, in one of many moments that sold me on the value of doulas forever, encouraged me to do what felt right. I really wanted to push. I pushed a little. It didn’t hurt; it actually felt good. I kept pushing with each contraction and it still felt like the right thing to do. My vocalizations with each contraction entered into what I can only describe as primal territory. I didn’t know I could make sounds like that. I’m sure I sounded like an animal, but aggressively using my voice and my breath helped a lot.
As a sidebar, funny story about sounding like an animal: apparently, there was a vent that went from the bathroom in my room all the way to the waiting room. Yeah, the room where my brother, sister-in-law and aunt were waiting. Why the architects of this hospital would not have accounted for the potential trauma this HVAC decision might cause to loved ones is beyond me. At one point, Ron went out to give everyone an update, and discovered you could hear all my lovely growling jungle noises quite clearly there in the waiting room! Ron said Josh looked at him, a little pale, and said, “Is that my sister?”
Sorry, Josh, if I scarred you for life, and sorry, Leah, if I caused you to question in any way whether eventually having children is a good idea. Don’t worry. It is.
Coming in the next installment of my labor tale: waters break, and I have to be convinced not to have my first child on the toilet. You up for part three, where all the magic happens?