Along comes Morgan
We had been debating for so long as to when Little Bear Cable would finally make his/her appearance in the world that I really did not take my first signs of labor seriously. I had been experiencing belly tightenings for about a week before she arrived, but on Thursday night (November 16th) they got a little stronger, but not at all painful. I told Jim that there really was no point in trying to time them as they didn't feel at all like people have described contractions to me: “Oh, you'll know it when it happens.” or “The pain will start in your back and go all the way around.” Jim and I both figured that the tightenings I was feeling were just the warm up session and the Little Bear would not make an appearance for another week or so.
I went to bed that night and was awakened at 3 am by a much stronger belly tightening. Again, it didn't hurt at all, but it was strong enough for me to think I should sit up for awhile and keep and eye (so to speak) on them. I sat up reading my book from about 3 until about 5 timing the tightenings. I was fascinated watching my belly transform from it's regular huge pregnant shape into a tight basketball. The “contractions” lasted about 45 seconds and were coming about every six to six and a half minutes. My extensive research had informed me (ah yes, the joys of being a born academic) that unless they were over a minute in length and less than five minutes apart there was really nothing to get excited about. My body was still just warming up. So, I went back to bed.
At around 9 am Jim and I decided to go to breakfast. The tightenings weren't getting any stronger or closer together, but holding at a steady 45 second duration every 6 minutes or so. But by this point I thought for sure that this meant the baby would be born on the proposed due date, the following day. I had been told repeatedly that for first time mothers a 18 hour labor was very common. As my “contractions” had started at about 3 am but had not really progressed yet, I figured that she would not be born until at least the next day. While at breakfast Jim kept the stop watch going like a champ. I was fully concentrating on eating as much as I could just in case. The “contractions” got a little stronger, again, not painful, but they did make me pause in my breakfast consumption, albeit briefly.
On the way home Jim and I had to stop at the hardware store to pick up a few odds and ends. While he was driving I was timing. Well, I realized then that things might be getting serious. I phoned Hilary, my best friend and chosen doula, to warn her that she might get a more serious call later that day. My “contractions”, while they were still under a minute in duration were getting closer together. While standing in line at Ace hardware store, leaning on Jim as another surge went through me, it occurred to me that “this was it” and we had better get home to make sure everything we needed was in the birth bag and ready to go. At home while Jim was packing odds and ends into the car I took a hot shower to relax myself the shower felt great and helped the tightness in my back but did nothing to slow things down. By this time although the contractions weren't over a minute in duration they were about 3-4 for minutes apart.
From the start our plan had been that when I went into labor I would call Hilary and head to my mother's house since she lived only about a 5-10 minute drive from the birth center. Sitting on my exercise ball, which I quickly realized was really the only comfortable place to sit, I phoned Hilary again and she said she'd meet me at my mother's, but I had better get on my way and drop the plan of taking a nap, I had already started to lose my mucus plug.
By the time Jim and I reached Mom's house at around 2 pm my contractions were about 2 minutes apart, but still shorter than I thought they needed to be. A quick snack of beef Jerky and a phone call to the birth center later we were on the way for a check up. The midwives wanted to see what my progress was like. The 5 minute drive cemented one thought clearly in my mind: I hated speed bumps. I remember clearly begging Jim not to let the car bounce because while I was mid-contraction bouncing in the car was the most unpleasant feeling I had yet to encounter.
When we got to the center the midwife on duty, Pat, checked me out and let me know that although I was only 2 ½ cm dilated, I was stretchy and about 90% effaced. She then called in Angie, the midwife who would be on duty that night so that I could meet her since I was surely having the baby that night. Angie was only going to be on duty until 8 pm when Shari, the midwife I had been seeing all throughout the pregnancy, would be back on duty. I thought for sure there was no way I'd be giving birth before 8 pm! After this brief discussion I was told to go back to my mother's have something to eat and try to rest. I should only come back when I was no longer able to talk through the contractions.
So, back in the car and over the speed bumps. We got back to Mom's house and she offered to make me something to eat... pork chops I think. I went into her bedroom and tried to lie down on the bed and rest. Jim came in to lie down with me. I quickly discovered that lying down was the worst possible position for a woman in labor to be in. I was breathing through the contractions with minimal difficulty when I was sitting up or standing, but the moment I was on the bed the pain became nearly unbearable and my whole body would tighten up with each surge. Jim brought me my exercise ball, which he had packed, smart man that he is, so that I could sit on it instead. Around this time Hilary showed up at my mother's house. I could hear her bubbling with excitement the moment my mother answered the door, but then again she had been bubbling with excitement since the day I told her I was pregnant. She and Jim took turns rubbing my lower back while I did my yoga breathing through each wave. We were no longer timing them, but there was no doubt in my mind that they were getting stronger and closer together. Finally Hilary called Angie and said that it was apparent that I was no longer able to talk through the contractions and that we were coming in. The walk from my mother's bedroom to the car parked outside was the longest journey I had ever made. I had to stop 2 or 3 times on the way because walking through the contractions was even less likely than talking through them. It was now around 5:15.
When we got to the birth center we “checked in” to the purple room and got ourselves situated. Angie came in to check my progress and said that I was around 4 cm. Fool that I was I tried lying down on the bed. Knew I'd never make that mistake again. So, back on the exercise ball, which in a birth center is called a “birth ball” instead, I returned to my yoga breathing. It helped relax me between contractions as well as give me something else to concentrate on. (Thank you Jackie for teaching me the Ujjayi breath!) Around this time Summer showed up. Summer is Hilary's roommate and is a massage therapist. My baby shower gift form Hilary and her husband was a “labor massage” from Summer. Little did I know then what I fantastic gift that was! She was my savior for that early part of the birth because she sat behind me while I was on the birth ball and rubbed my lower back completely loosening up my tension and helping me make it through.
Since we all thought we would be there for awhile, Hilary suggested putting on some music. Wonderful woman that she is, she brought all of my favorite Beatles albums. However, I mentioned to her that I had brought with us a movie. Now it may sound odd that I would suggest putting on a movie while I was rocking back and forth on the birth ball and unable to speak since we had arrived at the center, but this was no ordinary movie. It was Monty Python's Meaning of Life, which to some might not mean a thing, however Hilary and I had been discussing, “Part I: the Miracle of Birth” and the machine which goes “bing!” pretty much from the moment that I had decided to have a natural unmedicated birth at the birth center where she worked. I do remember the surprise emanating from both her and Jim when I piped up with my suggestion. I don't think I had been capable of speech for quite some time by this point. However, as funny as Python is, we did not make it much past “Every sperm is sacred” before music sounded like a much better idea.
Now here is where my memory gets a little fuzzy. I know my water broke at some point after this and that someone, I can't remember who, suggested that I might want to get into the birth tub to help relax. I remember thinking that was the best idea I had ever heard. Jim started to get his bathing suit on so he could join me in the tub but it was pointed out that I might be in there for a long time and he'd probably want to wait a bit. I'm guessing that all of this took place somewhere around 6:30 or so, but while I remember clearly everything I felt and I was 100% aware of what was going on around me, my brain was experiencing some sort of time lapse. I had no idea how much time was passing as it passed. At some points it felt like I had already been there for hours and at others it felt like mere minutes. I remember the sweet relief of the tub. I remember Angie coming in and telling me I was at 6 cm. I remember begging Jim not to leave the side of the tub and to just hold my hand. I remember Hilary telling me how well I was doing and that it was almost over. I remember thinking that she was a big fat liar. I remember asking how I would know if I felt like I would have to push and Summer telling me I'd just know.
Whether it was the power of suggestion or not, shortly afterwards (at least, so I think) I remember feeling like I really had to start pushing. Angie came back in and checked me but said I was only at 7 cm and wasn't ready yet. She suggested that I try changing positions in the tub, so I flipped (with quite a bit of effort) from floating on my back to kneeling on my knees. My best guess is that this all took place at around 7:15 or 7:30, but like I said, time was irrelevant. I do recall at some point saying that I couldn't support myself on my hands and knees and returned to my prone position.
Floating on my back in the tub with warm watter intermittently being added I was aware of the conversations going on between Jim, Summer, Hilary and Stefania (the senior midwife student who was present and would be the one to catch my baby). I could hear them, but to me they were miles away. Although if you were to ask me today I could not tell you what song, or even what album, was playing I remember being aware of nothing but the music and the feel of the water. When the wave of the next contraction would come over me I'd moan out a low throaty sound because it helped keep me focused and relaxed, otherwise I was listening to the music and putting myself anywhere but in my body. Of course, that's not entirely true. I have never been more present in myself than I was during those last few moments before I began to push, but at the same time I felt like I was anyone but myself.
At 8 pm Shari came in the room. She had been away from the center all night and was dressed up. It was the first time in the many months I had been coming to see her that she was not wearing her uniform. I remember thinking how odd it seemed that she was wearing a white shirt. I clearly recall her walking in the door because I felt a surge of relief. I thought to myself that if she was there then it really was almost over. She asked me how I was doing and I said to her that I really felt like I had to push. She said, “well that's what we've all been waiting for!” She then told Jim to get into his trunks if he was going to get in the tub with me. I don't remember if anyone asked if I wanted to give birth in the tub or if I wanted to get out, maybe they did, but I know for sure that there was no way in hell I would have voluntarily gotten back on that bed or out of the water at that point. Nope, the tub was where this was all going to happen.
Jim took up his position behind me and Shari checked my progress, or maybe it was the other way around, I'm not sure. She said I was 10 cm and the baby was well down and ready to come out. She told me to brace my feet and hold my breath while I pushed with the contractions. Perhaps I took her too seriously because I remember feeling like I was going to split the tub in two. After a few pushes she said she could see the baby's head and that it was covered with hair. Around this time I lost my cool, I mean truly lost composure. The contractions hurt, there is no denying that, but the feeling of the baby's head coming out was a different kind of pain and I knew I was ripping. I remember screaming just once and everyone telling me not to scream or I'd hurt the baby. I think that snapped some sense back into me because with the next push the head was out and shortly after that my beautiful baby girl was out of my body and in the water and they were telling me to pick her up and put her on my chest. It was 8:21 pm, I had been pushing for 16 minutes. I remember crying and I remember Jim crying. I remember being terrified because my Morgan Jade was the only one who was not. It took her a few seconds and a few good rubs to get her voice, but she sure found it and I remember looking down on her, a pinkish grey color, covered with vernix and thinking she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Along comes Morgan