It's taken me a long time to figure out how I want to write about the birth of my son. I'm still not sure I have it right. It was an extremely intense, personal and sacred experience and the mere relaying of details just doesn't do it justice. And I can't for the life of me figure out how I want to portray myself or the experience - so I am just going to write it as it happened. This is the story of how I brought our little baby in to this world as I remember it. No added drama, no sugar coating it. It was hard, painful and beautiful all at the same time.
Conor and I prepared for the birth of our son for months before he was born. Early on in the pregnancy we both decided that we wanted a natural child birth in a birthing center. We did our research, watched all of those baby birthing documentaries on Netflix that try to convince you giving birth in an open field is safer than with a doctor in a hospital, and attended a 4 hour birthing class once a week for two months. The birthing class was probably the most helpful thing we could have done to prepare us for every possible birthing scenario. When we were done with our class I felt confident in myself and my body.*
The day before Henry was born I drove an hour down to the hospital in Kailua to have a weekly check up. My midwife checked my cervix, stripped my membranes (because I was over due) and determined that I was dilated to a 3 and could probably go into labor that night or sometime before the end of the week. She asked if I wanted to schedule an appointment to be induced and I said I would rather wait it out and let it come naturally. I have heard that when giving birth with out an epidural the last thing you want to do is mess with pitocin. It supposedly makes your contractions come on stronger and faster than they would without. Before I was about to leave she decided to check the baby's movement and fluids just to make sure everything was alright. The baby's heart rate and movement looked great but my fluids were very low. After discussing it with my midwife we decided that any risks associated with being induced were not as great as the risk of low fluid levels. She told me I could come back any time that evening to have my baby. I was excited and nervous and couldn't wait to tell Conor that we were about to become parents.
As I walked out of the hospital I called Conor on the phone and asked him if he wanted to become a daddy that night. He said of course! As I drove back up the coast to our home Conor busied himself by packing us some lunch and our hospital bags. I remember that drive very well. I turned the radio off and sang out load to myself the whole way home. Everything looked so beautiful. I was so excited! I remember noticing things about the island that I had never noticed in all of my years living here. The sun was bright and the water was so blue. It was amazing. I was about to become a mother!
We got to the hospital around 3 pm and I got hooked up to the pitocin and settled in to my bed. Conor and I watched some TV and played scrabble. The contractions started coming right away but I did not become uncomfortable for hours. I spent time walking and bouncing on the birthing ball. I remember thinking, either this birthing stuff isn't as painful as everyone makes it out to be or I am just really good at this. My dear friend and nurse Bethany kept telling me, "You still look too comfortable, we better kick up the pit a little bit more." Finally around 8 I started to feel the pain, but I apparently still looked "too comfortable" and kept getting my pitocin bumped up. I decided that maybe it was time to act a little more put out. Apparently I'm not a very good actor because I got the pit bumped up a few more times. Around 10 it finally became pretty unbearable and I decided it was time to get in the whirl pool. I stayed in there for what seemed like forever. Conor sat next to me and let me squeeze his hand with every contraction and told me how good I was doing and that he loved me so much. The contractions finally became so painful that I threw up. I had to get out of the whirl pool... I was shaking uncontrollably. I warmed up and got the pain back under control and crawled back in the bath.
This is about the time I became a zombie. I remember falling asleep in between contractions. Like I mean dead asleep. I was exhausted. It is the strangest feeling to wake up every other minute in a warm bath to the most intense pain and then fall completely asleep again. Every time I woke up I was just a little confused at what was going on. I don't really remember how long all of these different stages lasted but it felt like this went on for hours. Finally I had had enough. I looked Conor square in the eye and told him I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't remember the word "drugs" or "epidural" so I calmly but firmly told him to "Go get me the medicines now." I remember him looking like he was about to laugh which only made me more serious and insistent. He told me it was too late, that I was already there, all I needed to do was push him out. I told him he was a liar and then I started to beg. I remember saying "Puuuuhhh-leeeeeeeeeezzzzz!!!" I could hear the awkward way I was breaking the word "please" in to two long syllables and recognized my little girl voice - I sounded exactly like I did when I was 5 and wasn't getting what I wanted. I felt sorry for my little girl self and thought about crying.
Then something in my mind snapped. It occurred to me suddenly that if I didn't get out of that tub soon I wouldn't be able to get myself out at all. I gathered every last bit of strength that I had, walked myself over to the bed and resolved to get that baby out. Bethany checked me and told me I could start pushing. I pushed as hard as I thought I could. Apparently it wasn't enough. I had to push harder and curl my body around the pain. I remember with every push I closed my eyes tight and saw white lightning pain shooting through my head. It was both insanely uncomfortable and amazing at the same time. I pushed for about 30 minutes. On the last push my midwife told me to stop pushing mid push. Apparently I figured out how to push harder than they had anticipated. Baby Henry came rushing out despite my effort to hold back. I tore quite a bit which was not part of my birth plan (but luckily that's the worst thing that happened during the whole delivery).
Henry was immediately placed on my chest. I cried. I cried because I was tired, and because I was hurt. And then I cried because I was so in love with this warm little body and dark little eyes just staring up at me in wonder. We just looked at each other, me and him. Conor cut the chord (which we have pictures of but will keep private because someone unwittingly displayed her vagina very clearly in the background). I held Henry for a little over an hour while the nurses finished up and took his vitals. Conor and I just stared at him the whole time. They took him from me to do some last little tests and to clean him up. I took and shower and got ready for bed. Then the three of us snuggled down into my bed and fell asleep as a family.
In the days that followed I couldn't believe what I had done. I was both proud of myself and scared of my strength. It still baffles me that I just walked myself in to that birthing center, laid myself down on that bed, endured everything that I did and then walked myself right out. Our bodies are truly amazing and I am a lot stronger than I think. I also feel very blessed that the delivery went as smoothly and as quickly as it did.
*Note - In hindsight I feel that I was way more prepared for labor and delivery than actually taking care of a baby. If I could go back and do anything over again I would have taken more classes on nursing and infant care - just a thought for anyone who is preparing for birth. After a month of being a mommy I would say labor and delivery was definitely the easiest part. Do not be afraid of it. Prepare for it, but do not be afraid.