I knew Clay’s birth story would not start on December 16, 2011, his estimated due date. After all, his older brother Miles was born 11 days after his due date. But when Christmas came and went with no new baby, I worried.
I wanted a natural childbirth, so I dreaded being induced. I did not want to be tethered to an IV during labor; I didn’t want to experience Pitocin-intense contractions; I didn’t want to need an epidural; I didn’t want to start a chain of medical interventions that could lead to a cesarean birth. However, under pressure from my midwife, I scheduled an induction at the hospital for December 29.
On December 29, I woke up at 5 am to get ready for my appointment. I was vaguely aware of some contractions, and at 6:09 I started timing them. One hour and 12 contractions later, I decided I was in labor. I felt guiltily happy, like a kid who gets to stay home from school because he’s sick.
Alvin dropped off Miles as planned, and I notified the midwife that I was in labor. She said I could stay home for a few hours. I sent some emails, went for a slow walk through the woods with Alvin, knelt over the birth ball and practiced my “slow breathing” during contractions. We made a mad dash to the hospital when contractions suddenly became more intense and frequent.
We arrived at 11:00 and met my doula, Nikki, at Labor and Delivery on the 4th floor. Apparently it was a very popular day to have a baby because there were no rooms available. I clung to a bar on the wall while nurses discussed where to put me. I must have looked like I was about to have this baby in the hall, because they found me a room.
For the next couple hours, I camped out on the birth ball, first on the floor, then on the bed. Kneeling over it really felt like the best position: supported, no weight on my back or hips, and I could roll my torso around on the ball for a little massage. Alvin said, “Remember to breathe in relaxation,” a few times, but mostly he kept some distance, especially after I ordered, “Don’t hover.”
By 1:30 my water still hadn’t broken, and I felt miserable. These contractions hurt like crazy, and I was sure pushing the baby out was not going to feel any better. Nine months of mental preparation for pain had been exhausted. I really doubted my ability to continue. Then an idea flew into my head. Maybe feeling no pain was an option. I asked the nurse, “What would have to happen for me to have an epidural?”
My doula explained that first I would have to receive a bag of IV fluids, then I would have to lie on my side while the anesthesiologist inserted a needle in my lower back. I would have to hold still during a contraction even if I felt like pushing. It sounded like it would take a long time. But after another contraction, I said, “I want one.”
So the nurse started my IV while I knelt over the birth ball. I remember thinking how wonderful that needle felt going in my arm. It was a step toward major pain relief. More contractions. More misery. The anesthesiologists came in. They explained that positioning was crucial, and I would have to lie on my side. I didn’t feel like moving at all.
The midwife checked me and announced I was completely dilated and ready to push.
The anesthesiologists were still waiting. I still hadn’t budged. The midwife suggested that I make a decision – either get the epidural or decide to push the baby out.
“How long after I get the epidural will I feel pain relief?” I asked. They said, “We like to give it 30 minutes.”
“What?!” I felt like screaming. “It’s not instant?” By 30 minutes the baby might be born anyway! Fine. I’ll just push the baby out.
For the next half hour I pushed. Each time I felt a contraction coming, I grabbed onto the rails of the bed, took a deep 20-second breath, and pushed. I cried out for the pain. I could feel the baby getting closer to coming out, and I could feel him slide back in when I stopped pushing. Finally I heard the midwife tell Alvin that it would be one or two more pushes. I pushed as hard as I could, and I wanted to die. Alvin said I let out a great warrior cry.
I felt tremendous pressure, then a sliding, gushing sensation. The baby’s head made it out, and the rest of his body quickly followed. It was 2:53 pm. He landed on the bed beneath me, trailing his umbilical cord.
I felt a rush of emotion. I nearly wept for joy that it was over! And that I had a baby! I awkwardly tried to maneuver off the birth ball and turn around to sit on the bed and hold my baby. His umbilical cord tugged and bumped against me. We were both a bloody mess. Finally I got situated, the nurse clamped and cut the cord, and she handed me the baby. I wasn’t sure I remembered how to hold such a tiny baby, and he was slippery. Someone wrapped a blanket around him and dried him off in my arms. I was exhausted and emotional.
I examined his scrunched-up old man face – so funny – and instantly fell in love. His chin jutted out, and his lower lick was sucked into his mouth. Nine months of pregnancy and nine hours of labor were all over, and my baby had arrived. I was in heaven just looking at and holding this new little creature.
|We made it!|
|The proud father|