The Hardest Single Thing I’ve Ever Done

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Submitted by Cameron at Ingenue Mom.

9 a.m. New Year’s Day and I awake to a contraction. I had been having Braxton Hicks for weeks, but this felt different, stronger. I felt another one a few minutes later and started timing how far apart they were soon after that. They stayed consistent at every 6 minutes or so. I told Lewis that I thought it was possible I was in labor. Since we had been dealing with some contractions for a while, neither of us was too quick to believe it really was labor. It seemed like God just wanted to tease us, so we decided not to get excited until we were sure.

I spent the morning lying in bed with Lewis, watching “Cops.” I ate lunch around noon and started to notice that my contractions were getting stronger and were coming about 4 minutes apart. There were a few that I had to focus a little more to get through, but still nothing too bad. I could’ve done this part all day. I watched some “Buffy” episodes on TV, which was awesome! It was New Year’s Slay on Logo and I enjoyed it for a while, but I eventually needed a little more help getting through the contractions. I don’t remember exactly when I started communicating with my nurse-midwife through text message, but it was somewhere in this time. I told her what was going on and just kept her updated every hour or so. I wanted to stay home as long as I could because I was most comfortable in my own familiar space.

Trying to explain contraction pain is so hard. For me, it felt sort-of like a wrenching menstrual cramp. They were really low. Mine would slowly come on and then slowly go back down. I focused a lot on my breathing. In and out, in and out. I did a lot of visualizing Isis moving down and out, down and out. Every contraction was her moving one tiny step closer to me. I had to think about it like that or I’d lose focus and just think about pain. I did my best to never think of it as pain. It was life, it was movement, it was her making her way out.

I ended up taking a bath and that helped a lot with the pain. Somehow being able to float a little bit helped take the pressure off the other parts of my body like my back and just focus it in my uterus. When I wasn’t lying against something, there wasn’t extra pressure. It was all just belly.

When I got out of the tub, my contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart. Lewis had been with me from the time I got in the bath, so he was helping me get through things. We tried having me do different positions, like sitting on a birthing ball, on my hands and knees, lying on my side and standing. I eventually got to the point where I felt like I probably wanted to go to the hospital and Lewis was definitely on board because he was feeling like he couldn’t do much to help me. I was nervous to go to the hospital because I thought that the intensity of actually being there would slow down my labor, but we packed everything in the car and headed on our way. I told the nurse-midwife we were going, so she called ahead and told them I wanted a natural birth, no IV, no pain medication, labor tub, nurse who was okay with natural birth, etc. I at least felt comfortable that I was going somewhere that was prepared for me.

Luckily, we were able to get the only labor room with a tub in the hospital. It was at least twice the size of mine at home and was so awesome because I could submerge my entire body in there and still not lay on the bottom. I could just float. This helped my contractions immensely! Looking back on it, I’m not sure I could’ve done a natural labor for as long as I did without the tub.

I was monitored intermittently for 20 minutes of every hour. They also used a small heart monitor wrapped in a plastic bag to listen to her heartbeat while I was in the water. My best friend, Diana, was there with us. For the next several hours, it was me, Lewis, Diana and the labor nurse. I had told the nurse-midwife that she was okay to stay home until I was ready for her. She wasn’t even on call, but was graciously coming in anyway to deliver my baby. She was ready to come in when I wanted, but I knew I wasn’t dilating really quickly and I felt comfortable with our process of going back and forth from the tub to a birthing ball to be monitored.

I was almost completely effaced when I got to the hospital, but I was only 4 cm dilated. As I continued on with labor, I dilated about 1 cm every hour and a half to 2 hours. After a few hours, the nurse noticed that things were slowing down a little and she told me it’d probably be good to go walk around the halls to speed things along. So I put on the little mesh underwear they give you with a big pad—I had no idea you start to bleed a little when delivery gets close—and we went for a walk in the halls. Every 30-45 seconds, I’d have to stop and hold on to Lewis, while I had a contraction. I was the only one in the hall, although I knew there were other women in the room in labor, but my nurse told me they were all hooked up to IVs and epidurals. Even though I was definitely in pain, I was happy that I was able to walk around to speed things up. I liked being able to do what I wanted as long as Isis and I were both doing good.

Shortly after the walk, they checked me again and I was 7 1/2 cm. The contractions started to get stronger and closer together and the nurse offered to call my nurse-midwife to come in to break my water and speed things along. We said we were ready. Up until this point, I had been confident and felt good about everything that was going on. It wasn’t easy and the contractions were a lot harder than I probably make it sound when I’m talking about it, but I was still happy and confident with the way things were going.

Once my water was broken, a lot of that changed. Everything got a lot more intense. The nurse-midwife described it as having no more cushion, so the contractions felt a lot harder. This is definitely true. They started coming faster and felt a lot stronger. It was a lot of things at once. I was clearly in transition, I had no more cushion from the water and I got to the point where I had to stop talking at all, even between contractions. I went inward, focusing on her moving down and out, down and out. I’ve heard that the majority of labor happens in your brain and I found that to be so true for me. When things got hard like this, I focused all my energy on “breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.” It was a conscious effort to not think about pain and put it on something else. It took every ounce of my energy to just keep my mind where I wanted it and not lose control.

The nurse-midwife told me to make noise. She said that a lot of times it helps to let out a groan or a growl or a yell or whatever while in the contraction. I didn’t want to do that because I just didn’t see the point and I thought it seemed embarrassing, but as soon as I finally started doing it, things started moving along. I started feeling a desire to push at the end of every contraction. Not a lot, but a little. Everything in my body wanted that baby out. I was breathing out and groaning out and pushing out. I was ready for her to be out.

I pushed on the birthing ball and I pushed while sitting on the toilet. When I was sitting on the toilet, I looked down and noticed that there was brighter red blood coming out and I got scared. I didn’t realize that this was normal. That’s one moment where I almost lost it. I looked at Lewis and then I saw myself in the mirror and I thought in my head, “I’ve made a huge mistake…” but I wouldn’t say anything out loud. I knew if I said it out loud, I would lose control, lose focus. I closed my eyes and focused on Isis—moving down and out, down and out.

Finally I got back on the bed and the nurse-midwife checked me one last time and ended up having to push the lip of my cervix back so that Isis’ head could get through. That one single thing was more painful in that moment than anything before or after. Even pushing Isis out wasn’t as painful as when she did that. I’m not sure what makes that so much more painful. Maybe it’s the fact that the baby is already making its way down or that you could be in the middle of a contraction when she does it, but either way, Lewis had to literally hold me on the bed because I was in so much pain. Still, I never said a word. I groaned, I cried, but I was thinking in my head, “down and out, down and out, breathe, breathe, breathe.”

Then came pushing and I remember very little of what was going on around me. I know Lewis and Diana were having to help me curl my body up to push her out because I was completely exhausted. I know that 2 other nurses came in right before she came out to do all the prep stuff to her right after she is here. I know that Diana stood at my head. I know that I couldn’t tell the difference between her still being in the birth canal and her crowning.

But I remember exactly what it was like when she came out. 6:06 a.m. January 2. It was an instant, a second and she was there. Within the same second she was placed on my bare chest and we looked at each other. I was completely overwhelmed with what I had just done, with the fact that she was here, with what was coming up, with what I had to do now. I was exhausted and I was scared, but I was home. This girl was going to change everything. She was brand new and I had sacrificed to get her here. Real love always requires sacrifice. For me, that sacrifice began with 9 months of pregnancy and a 21 hour, medication-free, painful labor. She was born through sweat, tears, blood, but also hope, excitement, joy. She gave so much more in that moment than had been taken from me through labor.

My body knew what it was doing. It was bringing her to me. Breathing in, breathing out, pushing down, pushing out, moving second by second, to my arms. Looking back, I wouldn’t do it any other way. Although it is the hardest single thing I’ve ever done in my life, it was also the most rewarding by far.

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