After seven years of marriage, nearly 42 weeks of gestation, and countless hours of researching and determining my desired birth plan, labor with my first child started in the wee hours of the morning. The contractions had some rhythm to them, but not much intensity. Having not experienced labor, I thought perhaps I would just get off easy. In about 32 hours, I would realize that wouldn’t be the case.
Throughout the day, contractions came and went. My husband Matt took the day off work since we had no idea what lay ahead. We spent the day walking and walking and walking some more. Finally at the end of the night, we decided to cook up some spicy Mexican food to see if that would get things moving along. For the next few hours, nothing changed until we went to bed. As soon as I laid down, more intense contractions started. I got up to shower and was gripped by a full-strength contraction. I dried off, dressed and headed to the hospital.
Once we arrived, my contractions stopped. The nurse examined me and I was only 4 cm dilated. I was quite angry. A few days prior I had been 3 during an exam. The nurse called my midwife who said we should walk the hospital halls for the next few hours to get things to progress before being checked in. Frustrated and already tired, I wanted to go home and try to sleep some. Sherri, our midwife, said to give it one hour and we’d go from there. The walking worked and soon I was unable to walk or talk through my contractions. With each one, I leaned against the wall and swayed from side to side as Matt rubbed my lower back with all his might. After an hour of this, we were admitted.
I couldn’t wait to get into the room and into the tub. Desiring to go pain-medicine free, I was hoping the warm bath would help ease my discomfort. Sherri asked if I wanted her to break my water to get things progressing even more. I consented, hoping things would speed up. With that, my contractions got stronger and I wanted the tub even more. I finally made it in and welcomed the “relief” it gave. Of course the pain was still intense, but the warmth helped ease some of the discomfort and allowed me to better focus and stay on top of the contractions.
As soon as I hit the water, I sort of disappeared. I had been jovial and trying to hold conversations (to a certain degree), but suddenly I realized that if I was going to make it through, it was time to focus inwardly. With that decision, I disappeared within myself. I paid little attention to what went on around me. For the most part the room was quiet and dim, which is exactly what I wanted and the nursing staff honored that. Matt sat outside the tub, laying cold washcloths on my head and massaging my back as needed. Both he and Sherri stayed beside me, watching and waiting.
After a few hours and at the peak of a contraction, I suddenly doubted myself and my ability to make it through several more hours of this. I would estimate the time to be around 3 in the morning and I had been in the tub for maybe an hour by then. I told Sherri I needed something to help dull the pain, to give me time to refocus. She asked if I would like a shot of nubain. I consented. I’m not sure it offered me any pain relief, but I took that time to refocus.
A few hours later, Sherri asked if I felt like pushing. I had no idea (which now I understand to mean my body wasn’t ready at all). I tried a few practice pushes in the tub, but couldn’t get good leverage, so we moved back into the room. We tried different positions and the birth ball, but nothing seemed to feel right though I had started to feel the urge to push. At one point, they attached a bar over the foot of the bed, tied a sheet around it and had me pull it with all my might during each contraction. Even after just a few of those, I had sore biceps for the next few days.
I had been pushing for over three hours and did not feel as though I was making any progress. The nurse and Sherri were both being supportive, but I was becoming mentally and physically tired. That’s when Sherri asked if I wanted assistance. She said she believed I could do it, but she needed to update the OB on my progress. If I wanted to, she could ask the OB to come in and do a vacuum extraction. Worn out, I agreed.
Within a half an hour, the OB was there and the entire mood changed. She brightened the lights and chatted loudly and non-stop. I wanted so desperately to tell her to be quiet. She kept telling Matt to not look at the tray behind her because of some massive needle she would use to numb me for the vacuum. Matt is not exactly weak in the knees and wanted to see what she would be using and she just kept saying, “Don’t look. Really. It might upset you.” Again, I wanted to tell her to shut up.
She inserted a catheter in prep and emptied my bladder. I was also told I no longer had to push through contractions, but my body didn’t agree. I tried to sustain the urge when Sherri said, “It’s okay. If you have to, go with it.” Finally we were ready to roll with the vacuum. The OB did say that if this didn’t work, we might need to consider other measures. She didn’t say it, but I sensed she was laying the groundwork for a c-section, if it got to that point. With the vacuum in place, the nurse said, “Okay, now you’re really going to have to push.” I wanted to deck her for that comment. And what exactly had I been doing for the last few hours? Taking a leisurely stroll? I should also point out that this same nurse attempted to play Kenny G elevator music, but I promptly vetoed that.
Not thanks to her comment, but because of the fear the OB instilled in me, I pushed with all my might, popping a blood vessel in my eye. After 20 or so minutes, Jonas finally entered the world at 1:41 p.m. (32 hours from when the first, dull contractions had begun), exercising his lungs to their fullest capacity and donning a huge goose egg on top of his head thanks to the extraction. They placed him on my chest immediately. I looked down and thought, “He looks just like my dad. I just gave birth to my dad.” The nurses took his vitals as he lay on top of me. I held him for a while until Matt had to take him so I could be sutured. The vacuum had caused a pretty serious tear quite close to my urethra and if it wasn’t repaired just right, I could sustain long-term effects.
While he was still in my arms, I delivered my placenta. The OB showed us what it looked like and pointed out signs of calcification meaning it was beginning to age. I had been scheduled for an induction a few days after his birth date, since I was 10 days past due. Thankfully that induction would not be necessary.
The suturing didn’t take long and he was soon back in my arms, ready to nurse. He nursed within the first hour. Our families had been at the hospital all night and were anxiously waiting outside. We finally cut Jonas off after 20 minutes so they could come meet the little guy.
My recovery went fairly well. I had moderate pain and cramping, and of course tenderness due to the tear. I didn’t walk much for the first few days. It took a couple of weeks before I was able to walk more than a couple of blocks, but soon I was back to doing a mile or so at a time.
Jonas wore his goose egg for a few days. It’s no wonder he cried for the first hour of his life. I can’t imagine what his head felt like. It’s one thing to go through the birthing process naturally, but to be yanked out as he was had to be quite traumatic. Perhaps that’s why, three-and-a-half years later, he still demands cuddles from his mama—on some level he hasn’t forgotten his journey into the world.
Meagan Church is a writer, children’s book author and Unexpectant’s mom-in-charge. She lives in the Midwest with her high school sweetheart, three children, two cats and one dog. Her passions include running, black coffee, and simple, yet intentional living. Connect with her on Twitter @unexpectant, Pinterest or Instagram. To learn more about her freelance writing, visit her website www.MeaganChurch.com.