Claire’s Birth, by Rose

Sep 13, 2012 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Birth Stories

Finally! The last bit of work was done: the last fax was faxed, the last email answered, the last file filed. It was the early evening of August 20th, and I was finishing my final day of work before my maternity leave started. Friday nights were always sweet, but this one in particular had my spirits soaring.

I had plans for the upcoming week, and I was looking forward to my time off. Saturday was the day of final preparation: Robert and I were going to pack our suitcase for the hospital, install the car seat, and make sure the baby’s room was completely ready for her. I had a much anticipated massage appointment on Tuesday. Our baby girl was due August 26, and I was convinced that she would come even later than that. After all, I hadn’t reached the point of being miserable yet, and everyone I knew who counted on being early delivered a good week or two weeks late.

But most important: I had plans to sleep in. Sleep in, stay in bed, lounge, relax, and pamper myself so that I’d have reserves to count on once the baby was born. No sense in going into this a tired wreck. Sleeping in was what I was looking forward to the most.

I left work around 6:30pm, and drove over the Aurora Bridge in the sunshine of the early summer evening. I was on my way home and it felt great. One more chapter closed, bringing me even closer to the inevitable birth of our daughter.

But when I got home, the euphoria mellowed, taking away the energy that came with it. I had been thinking about my bed so much in the anticipation of sleeping in that suddenly there was no other place that I wanted to be. Soon after walking through the door, I announced that I was going to watch TV in bed, and I curled up (as much as a pregnant woman can) and cozied under the covers. I even ate dinner in bed, and around 10:00pm, finally got up and wandered downstairs into the basement where Robert was watching TV. I sat on the stairs and said half apologetically, “I’m so tired! I just came down to let you know I’m going to sleep.” And then out of my mouth came the words, “You know, we could be having this baby sooner rather than later.” With that, I went upstairs and fell asleep.

Pregnant women, especially those 9 months pregnant, don’t sleep through the night. They wake up, they get up to go to the bathroom, they can’t get comfortable, and they don’t sleep through the night. That night, I slept through the night. Never woke up once.

And then, around 6:30am, I woke up. Not surprisingly, I had to go to the bathroom. I plodded downstairs, slowly and carefully. I said hello to the cats. I went into the bathroom, sat down to pee. Usually I could maintain a half-asleep state so that it was easy to go back to bed without interrupting much slumber. But my body said it was important that I do more than pee, so I resigned myself to the fact that this was going to take a little bit longer than planned. I was jolted out of my semi-asleep state by a severe intestinal cramp. OH! Ever resourceful, I thought to myself, “Why don’t you practice your breathing techniques to see if it helps?” and so I did. And it did help. It was gratifying to OH! Another intestinal cramp. Nothing I couldn’t get through… after all, when the time really came these would be nothing, so I’d better buck up and just get through these mere irritations.

My body, given considerable time and liberty, told me we were done. Finally, at 7:00am, I could get back to bed. And while finishing up, I’m surprised at how much I took it in stride when I saw the unmistakable “bloody show”. Calm but smiling, I knew this meant I could go into labor within the next day or two. I happily went back upstairs to bed, to snuggle with my sleeping husband. Warm and under the covers, I grinned a secret grin and closed my eyes. OH! In the quiet of the room, it was unmistakable. That was a contraction. My eyes shot open and I stared into Robert’s back, still sleeping. Was this it? OH! Another contraction. Labors take 12, even 18 hours. Maybe it was wise for me to stay in bed and OH! Geez. That was three contractions, and it hadn’t even been 10 minutes.

“Robert!” I whispered. “Robert!!” My husband doesn’t wake easily. “Robert!” OH! &quo;Robert, I’m having contractions!” I wish I could remember what my husband said to me at that point. I remember him stirring, looking blurry-eyed at me, and saying something to the effect of, “You are? That’s nice…” before he rolled over to go back to sleep. Obviously he didn’t get it.

And so begins the transition from calm to chaos. Now the contractions were coming harder, and a little too quickly for my comfort. I was sitting up in bed, pounding the mattress, trying to get Robert alert. He rallied. I started issuing orders. We needed some paper and a watch to record these contractions. We needed to document the duration, how closely they were coming, their intensity. We needed this stuff now. OH! But don’t go anywhere! Here’s another contraction! This one hurts! Stay with me and help me breathe!

Robert became the rubber band man. He bounced from place to place, trying to keep up with my orders, disconcerted by my urgency. I needed this, we had to go there, I was going to throw up, help me count, where was he going, why hadn’t he recorded that last contraction? Every time he tried to step away from me, I had another contraction and pleaded with him to come back and be with me. We were in the living room by this time, and I felt like I was going to throw up. He went to get a receptacle for me. We needed to pack! He ran upstairs to get the suitcase. “Robert!!” I wailed, feeling another contraction coming.

I decided I needed a bath. I wasn’t going to the hospital to give birth to this baby without a bath. The bathtub, now full of hot water, looked so inviting. I stepped in, and… ahhhhh… oh it felt wonderful.

I felt so enveloped, so relieved of pain. I was able to wash my hair, my face, and then out of nowhere the contractions started coming again. This time they had more intensity to them. Robert had called our doula, Kim Radtke, while I was in the bathtub. She said that it wasn’t unusual to have lots of intense contractions early on, and she expected they would start to space themselves out. She asked us to call back, and she’d be over whenever we needed her. It was around 7:45am.

I heard Robert talking to Kim, and called for him. I needed to get out of the bathtub now, and I couldn’t seem to get up. Every time I tried, a wave of contractions would hit me. I was afraid of falling. Robert got off the phone and tried to help. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, I would have laughed at the sight of a husband trying to get in the bathtub with his very pregnant and water-soaked wife while she flailed and wailed and struggled to get upright. I started to panic. I was sure I would slip and fall, and I was blinded by my pain. We finally managed to heave me out of the bathtub.

Robert called Kim again. She asked to talk to me. I couldn’t even hold the phone, let alone hold a conversation. One of the key signs a woman is in active labor is her inability to talk, and that’s what Kim was looking for. She said she’d be right over!

In the meantime, Robert was still bouncing from one place to the next. He still hadn’t had time to pack or install the infant car seat for the hospital ride home. He was also operating on less than 4 hours’ sleep (must have been a good television program!) and he was showing signs of strain. He was working very hard to keep me calm and to help me breathe. He kept saying, “Just relax, just relax.” I wanted to so badly, but I couldn’t.

When Kim arrived, I was in the living room with the shades drawn. I was naked on the couch sitting on my bathrobe, which was loosely wrapped around my shoulders, clenching through another contraction. I was so glad to see her! Robert was also immensely relieved. He left me in Kim’s care and ran upstairs to pack and prepare for our trip to the hospital. Kim sat down with me to check in. Before we could talk I had another contraction. Kim said, “Rose, I’d like to try another position with you when you’re able. Sitting can actually add to the pain.” She stood up and motioned for me to follow. The bathrobe fell to the floor. I stood facing Kim, with my arms around her neck as she supported me, rocking back and forth through the contraction. Standing, leaning, it alleviated some of the pain! When the contraction was over, I pulled away from Kim and weakly joked, “I have to say, Kim, this is the fastest I’ve ever gotten naked for anyone and then slow danced with them!” Kim’s eyes twinkled as she wryly responded, “I wish I could say it was my first time!”

Having Kim there changed the tone of the labor. Even though I was in increasingly more pain, the edge of panic started to disappear. Robert was busy getting things done, while Kim talked me through contractions. I was standing on tiptoes, trying to crawl out of my skin, and Kim calmly instructed me to stay flat on my feet, that it would help me relax. I was trying so hard to relax but I just couldn’t seem to. Kim would say things like, “Okay, this contraction is almost over, almost gone, soon you won’t have this pain. Breathe through it. This is your body doing its good work, your body opening up for your baby. You are doing so well, so well. There we go. Take a deep breath. It’s over. Okay.” Hearing that my body was actually doing good work and was not betraying me was very comforting!

Now that Robert was done running around, he was able to come back to help me. I was so glad to put my arms around him while he supported me the way Kim taught him. I pressed my nose in his neck and just breathed in. We both felt relieved and focused, without the building panic of not knowing what to do.

All of a sudden, I doubled over. I thought I had to throw up. I thought I had to have a violent bowel movement. It felt like both of these things would happen at the same time. I hobbled into the bathroom, not knowing whether I should sit on the toilet or throw up in the bathtub. Again, panic started creeping in. And Kim’s calm voice assured me: “Just follow your body’s lead. It’s all about letting go. If you have to throw up, that’s fine. If you have to go to the bathroom, that’s fine. It’s completely normal. Just let go and do what your body tells you.” I doubled over again, and this time made an inhuman guttural groan. Kim, concerned, said, “Tell me what that felt like.” I answered between clenched teeth, “It feels like I have to take the biggest @#%! in the world!” Again I felt my body take over as I involuntarily made the animal noise again. Kim instructed Robert to call the hospital. It was 9:30am. Kim had been there a little more than an hour.

Now most doulas admit they would love for their clients to feel the thrill of natural childbirth. I had let Kim know that I was interested in trying, but I wasn’t making any commitments to go through childbirth drug-free. I knew Kim suggested that women go through early labor at home before going to the hospital, but I was starting to think it was time to go to Plan B. Fortunately, Kim was right there with me, saying before I had a chance to: “Let’s go to the hospital.”

Kim explained she thought I could be pushing. Since I’d been in labor for just over 3 hours, there was a good chance I wasn’t completely dilated. If that were the case, pushing could cause my cervix to swell, which could complicate things. She thought it was best that we have a doctor check me out.

We got the pregnant woman dressed (oh, where are those video cameras when you need them?) and I got into the car with Robert. They forget to tell you how hellish that car ride can be. No one is there to help you breathe through anything because they have a silly thing like driving to concentrate on. I doubled over again, and made my deafening animal noise. When the surge passed, I turned to Robert and panted, “There is no #$&%@!* way I’m doing this without drugs!!!!!”

The hospital was expecting us. I got out of the car, doubled over again with my pushing. They ran to me with a wheelchair, and yelled, “Is that Rose?” “Yes!” yelled Robert. And that’s how I checked in.

Robert pushed me in the wheelchair towards the childbirth center. I doubled over, and a nurse came running toward me. “Are you pushing?!” she asked. “Yes”, I panted, “but there’s no baby between my legs yet! I’m fine!” as Robert wheeled me past her. And then thankfully, blissfully, we were at the childbirth center.

It was 10:00am. I had checked in. Now I got checked out. And the nurse, after she examined me, smiled when she said, “You’re complete!” Those words were like heaven. Kim smiled hugely at me. I had gone through transition and didn’t even know it. And now the pain was behind me. I was so relieved to find out that I didn’t have any more contractions to get through. I finally relaxed. All I had to do now was push.

Pushing was hard work, but it wasn’t painful. Something inside my body would surge, overwhelm me, and then subside. Every time I felt another wave coming, I would think, “Oh NO, oh @#%!” but then pushing through the surge actually felt good, almost satisfying in a way. They don’t teach you how to push in birthing classes, and they should. There’s an art to it. I started out pushing twice during a contraction. The nurse told me to try to push three times, because the third time where was where the progress was made. I found a rhythm that suited me: the first push was smaller and took less energy. With the second push, I expended more effort, and finally the third push was where I issued forth all my strength and reserves. Kim even coached me to find a lower voice for my animal noises, that it would give me more power. It did.

I pushed for two hours. I dosed in-between contractions. I remember someone trying to hold a mirror so I could see what was going on, but I couldn’t vocalize enough to get the angle right, so I shooed the mirror away. I remember someone saying, “Oh look! There’s her head! She has blonde hair!!” My water hadn’t broken yet, so my baby was being cushioned by the amniotic sac, and her hair was waving back and forth in the fluid.

By now Dr. Andrews was at hand. We were almost there. The pushing became more intense, and there was no letting up, no time to take a breath and start over. Part of my brain said, “I can’t do this” and the marine drill sergeant voice (thanks, Dad) inside of me said, “YOU CAN AND YOU WILL!! NOW DO IT!” I heard voices everywhere saying, “Keep going! This is it! Keep pushing! You can do it! Here she comes! Don’t let up! Push! Push! Push!”

Ring of fire. Rope burn. If you know what a rope burn feels like, you know what the ring of fire feels like as your baby’s head is coming out of your heretofore-petite female parts. It’s not that it hurts so bad you can’t stand it, but it’s scary ? because if it starts to hurt more than it does at that moment, you know you’re in big trouble. Luckily, it never hurt more than that.

My water broke as my baby was coming out. First came her head. I had to stop pushing as she rotated. Oh, awe of wonders, my first glimpse of my beautiful baby. She was gorgeous. She was still halfway in my body. I was given the go-ahead to continue pushing, and she slipped out, cleansed by the amniotic fluid, clean, pink, and absolutely beautiful.

I was crying, gasping, reaching… my baby was brought closer and I took her in my arms and she was breathing and moving and warm and I couldn’t get her close enough to me. I looked at Robert. He was crying and gazing down at her. She was substantial, chunky, healthy, and alive. Did I say gorgeous? Weren’t just-borns supposed to be covered in vernix, bloody, and misshapen? She started rooting toward my nipple. She started breastfeeding. Don’t people have troubles with that? She was wrapped in my arms and she was out of my body and poor baby she was exhausted, secure in her loud, bright new world.

I wish I remembered the moment I first kissed her. I was too in awe, too reverent to kiss her immediately. Since then, I haven’t stopped kissing her.

After the visitors left, Robert and I named her Claire.

Welcome to the world, Claire. We love you so much.

Claire’s Birth Photos

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