Birth is such a messy, hard, glorious miracle. There are no words that can capture the pain and joy experienced. Each birth is unpredictable and unique. No birth is greater than another.
It’s been four months and I’m not over her birth. I don’t expect to be over it in 4 more months, 4 years or by the time she has kids. It is the single greatest thing I have ever done.
On March 9, Steven got home from work and we went for our usual walk – three miles a day for the last month. I was 8 days overdue and had the whole neighborhood on baby watch. We continued with our usual hellos, “Not Yet” and, “Hopefully we’ll have a stroller next time we see you!”
I had foot pain, back pain, I had freakin’ butt pain. When we were heading home, I felt my stomach tighten as usual. Braxton Hicks had been teasing me for weeks. Earlier in the day we went for a non-stress test (since I was overdue) and I painfully had my membrane stripped (add that to the ouch list). It was our last attempt before dreaded induction in just 4 days.
Since we put so much time and conviction into having a natural birth, we were trying everything to induce naturally. Birth balls and bumpy rides, pumping and pineapple, spicy foods and sex: each seemed more useless than the last.
Left over spaghetti was for dinner and I jumped in the shower. I knew that 1 out of 8 women would go into labor after a membrane sweep but highly doubted I was that one. The tightening continued and I began to time them. Was this the real thing?
I waited a few more hours and saw a steady pattern of every five minutes. I ate more knowing if it was prodromal labor it would end, and if not I could use the fuel. I chatted with my doula and decided it was time to rest if tonight was the night.
I never went to sleep. I watched The Office from about ten o’ clock to midnight in bed (something I did many nights during the last few months of insomnia) while Steven got some needed rest. The contractions were frequent but manageable. Soon after, I started making frequent trips to the bathroom which turned pretty quickly into camping out in there. I woke Steven and told him to call the doula and midwife.
Although our plan was to labor as long as possible at home, since I was shaky and vomiting so frequently, the midwife wanted me to come in and get checked. I’ve never been so thankful for my husband. Weeks of lecturing paid off as he hurried about getting every thing we needed. All I had to worry about was getting to the car, which, at the time, was all I could handle.
I’m thankful for no traffic during our 2 am ride because I’m not sure how it could have gotten worse. Steven was going too fast and too slow at the same time while it was cold enough to snow outside but felt like Hades in the car. He showed more super strength not getting sick himself while I gagged and moaned away, the beginning of 20 hours of noises he’ll never forget from his beautiful bride.
Once we got there and got checked (only 3 cm dilated), I “walked” (slowly picked up one foot in front of the other and paused to vomit) for two hours. Around 4:30 am I got my own room and knew this was it. We were going to meet our baby girl soon (or not so soon).
Walking into the room felt surreal. There were pads on the queen size bed, two birth balls ready for me, and my mom and doula ready to go. That’s really the last moment I had any concept of what time it was. I remember climbing onto the bed to get on all fours and hating it. All the positions I loved during practice I now hated. “Labor land” time began to crawl.
For the next 12ish hours I moved like a snail – any movement would set off a contraction. I stood, I slow danced, I sat, I laid. None of it brought relief. I tried to focus on letting go, to not fight the immense waves of pain. The only thing that felt good was a heating pad on my back.
I whispered “pan” to my doula every other contraction to vomit. I locked myself in the bathroom with my mom and fell asleep on the toilet in between contractions. I leaned on my husband desperate for him to save me from this ridiculous attempt of natural birth.
Finally, the nurses came in and asked if I to be wanted checked. I knew what the research said. I knew this didn’t mean much; women dilate at different rates and it’s not an indication of true progress. But, I was desperate for good news. For any progress.
6 cms. Not 7, not 8, not 9. She might as well have said 3 cms again. This was going so slow. It felt like my body was trying to kill itself and seemed like it might succeed. I sat on a birth ball while they started an IV for a bag of fluids since I couldn’t keep anything down. How many more hours was this going to take? How many more hours could I bear?
“I want an epidural.”
As my doula got up, my husband just looked at me with pity. He recited, “Let’s do just one more hour. One contraction at a time,” just like we practiced. I could tell he was exhausted too. He had gotten no sleep, no food, not a second of rest since I started demanding things the day before.
My doula came back with our birth affirmations I had written and a picture of our ultrasound. She began to recite them. She read all 27, twice through. Some that changed my day, my life, are:
“Today is Kensie’s birthday! I will put my needs, my desires, and my hopes on hold so I can concentrate on giving my baby the best birthday.” And, “I will not give into temptation and self-pity. I have waited for this moment and the next.”
So labor wouldn’t be stalled more than it was, I had to get out of the tub for a few hours. The midwife explained that Kensington was posterior and we should try to flip her. If I thought I hated positions before, I had another think coming. I twisted and tangled my body to try and flip her. My contractions were double peaking and lasting 4 times as long. All I could do was moan and moan, and moan.
Finally I was allowed back in the tub and felt the urge to push. With my first push, my water popped, a clear cool underwater explosion was seen that even my husband still talks about. I pushed and I pushed. My sister and mother in law joined in on the watch party, ready to celebrate Kensington’s birthday.
28 hours of excruciating pain and suddenly none of it mattered! She was in our arms. She didn’t cry or whine, just wide eyed and cuddly, ready to celebrate her birthday with us.
The immeasurable pain was nothing compared to this wave of oxytocin I was riding to indescribable joy and accomplishment.
We spent the next 48 hours in the clouds with visitors and our baby girl, reliving the day over and over.
I read about these moments in the books, cried watching strangers in a million birth videos, but nothing captured what I was feeling. I was the most prepared I could ever be and completely unprepared all at once. My dream birth was more of a dream than I could imagine.
I’ve been living the dream since and we can not wait to do it again. With a birth photographer.