Updated: Aug 31
I was so naive. I honestly had NO idea what I was getting myself into becoming a mother. Giving birth at 38 years, may not have been entirely in my favor. This is actually the first time I've written my birthing story down (my son is now 6 years old). I recommend writing and sharing YOUR birthing story a lot sooner!
We were scheduled to give birth at a hip modern birthing center in our area. Honestly, my personality didn't align well with the nurses there - but that is another story. My son was a week 'late,' we were at 41 weeks. Since I was a week 'late,' I was given a second ultrasound. Based on the ultrasound I had polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid). It was explained to me that this was dangerous for our baby and that we would be admitted to the hospital that evening. The midwife told me that having too much fluid is a risk to the baby during the birth since there is a chance the umbilical cord can get pinched in the birth canal and cut off all oxygen to the baby. Scary! I called my husband at work and we were both a bit in shock. At the same time, I was relieved to finally know that we would be meeting our baby soon.
Due dates are only approximations, and waiting and wondering when the baby will arrive (especially if like me, you pass your magic 'due date') is the ultimate practice in surrendering to the unknown. No wonder so many people schedule their births.
When my husband finally came home from work, we packed our things and drove to the hospital. I had been on a mellow solo hike that day, and had my first sign of labor - a little bit of pink 'show.' We arrived at the hospital around 9 PM. In my bag, I had packed the necklace from my lovely Blessing Way Ceremony (I organized it for myself), a candle, and a few other basic items I can't now recall. Honestly, the only things I actually used during my labor were the hypo-birthing tracks I had downloaded onto my phone and the free birth plan I had filled out online, printed, and given to the nurses when they asked for it. We were admitted to the stark, bland, sterile hospital room. It was definitely a downgrade from the bright and posh birthing rooms we had toured at the birth center.
So much for my hopes of a possible water birth.
I really wanted a home birth (since my brother and I were both born that way), but my husband was not up for the adventure (he was born in a hospital), and I too had my own trepidation.
The nurse informed us that this was going to be a very long and difficult process and that my labor would last many days in the hospital. My heart sank hearing this and I felt instantly depressed, this was NOT what I wanted to hear. In hindsight, I believe on some level the anti-authoritarian part of me decided to not buy into what the nurse had said. I was raised to question allopathic (Western) medicine and I believe it served me well here (thanks Dad!). They are 'practicing' medicine, and they too are potentially fallible humans, just like you and I.
The check-in process was long and arduous. Once we were settled, the nurse came in and gave me an oral cervical ripener, a little pill named: Cytotec. The nurse told me to get some sleep and offered a sleep aid (which I refused), again she reiterated what a long journey lay ahead.
My husband quickly fell asleep, and I was left wide awake, loathing the cumbersome uncomfortable two monitors trying to strangle my belly. I tried to sleep to no avail. It wasn't long before the contractions and pain set in. I called the nurse. I said I needed some pain relief, the pain had sky-rocketed in a very short time (I was determined to have an epidural-free birth - but at this moment I didn't care). I was ready to do ANYTHING to make this excruciating pain go away. She informed me that I was not in actual labor, that she too had been given Cytotec prior to her birth, and that the drug creates horrific false contractions, WAY worse than natural ones. She again told me I needed to sleep and convinced me to take an Ambien.
Then she left.
I managed to get my hypo-birthing tracks playing the same soothing, hypnotic, positive affirmations I had practiced for over a month before that night. I gripped the bedrail and endured the excruciating pain waves whilst gritting my teeth. The Ambien did NOTHING. Though it may have made the already other-worldly experience of birthing, even more far-out (I will never know for sure).
When you are in the vulnerable state of birth - it is really hard to advocate for yourself. In hindsight, I would definitely have hired a birth doula and would have had her well-equipped with my boundaries, values, and intentions. I was in too much pain to even have the thought of trying to wake my husband for help.
Looking back now, the night felt like a flash in time.
Soon morning light was streaming into the windows of our hospital room. There was a changing of the guard and the day nurse arrived to check in on me. I told her I had the urge to push. She was very surprised by this! She checked my cervix, which had been at 2 cm when I had arrived the night before and was now at 8 cm. So those pesky monitors I endured like a corset all night either didn't register that my contractions and labor were indeed REAL, or what!? Though I must admit the night nurse helped me attain my goal of an epidural-free birth.
I do love silver linings!
Suddenly things started happening in the room. My husband was now awake, and people were bustling about. I had entered a tunnel vision-like experience. I could not see, recognize, or register anyone's face. I can't tell you to this day what my delivery nurse looked like, and I'm pretty good at recalling people's faces. I knew they were there, yet they were like characters in a dream, I was sensing their presence, but not really seeing much of them in reality. I can see why some folks call the birthing experience, 'going to the moon.' I was certainly on my own little planet. Every cell in my body wanted to push, and the urge kept increasing. The nurse told me not to push, she said to resist and breathe through the urge - one of the hardest things I've ever done to this day! She said if I pushed too hard and too soon, I risked tearing my cervix.
Was my body wrong in its wisdom and urges to push? I recall my husband's voice helping me to breathe through the contractions, yet I couldn't register him with any of my other senses. I'm still immensely amazed to this day by what an incredible pain-killer breath-work is. My body's innate wisdom took over, since we didn't take a Lamaze class (are they even offered anymore?). I'm so very grateful my body innately knew how to breathe through the pain.
The bed dropped down, so the half where your feet and legs go was lowered, and I found the best position for me was on my hands and knees (with my waist-up elevated by the bed). They had me walk to the bathtub (a non-birthing one) across the room, and I was quickly back to bed in a few minutes.
I was buck naked in the brightly lit room, and if I were to get a re-do, would choose a much more dimly-lit, warm, welcoming, yin, serene environment to birth in.
This is where the timeline gets a bit fuzzy for me. Unfortunately, they had me lay on my back on the bed. It is MUCH harder to labor on your back. At some point my water broke, it was like Hokusai's iconic 'Great Wave.' I've always loved that famous piece of art since owning a small shimmery lithographic print as a young girl. The vision I experienced of my water breaking was of this giant wave gushing out of my body, rising and cresting on the edge of the bed, then crashing onto the floor, filling people's shoes, and spreading out in all directions. My husband later confirmed that my inner vision was very much like the reality of what happened. It was almost as if I was living inside this vision; a well-done Japanimation of my water breaking.
Then the nurse brought a strange full-length mirror in front of me. I believe that going to the tub, and then getting on my back may have stalled my labor a little. Interventions can mess with the natural birthing process, that simply wants to unfold gracefully like a flower. The nurse started tugging at my perineum. This tugging hurt and angered me. I told her not to do that. She did it again. She told me she wanted me to push into that spot, and that she was intentionally trying to piss me off. (I would later get $500 from the hospital for writing and complaining to them about this bodily invasion, and lack of respect for my boundaries).
I think I had left my body at some point in my birthing journey, so at this point I wasn't feeling much else on the physical plane. I couldn't really feel or access my body through my will, so I couldn't try to push where she wanted me to. I was really starting to feel very tired. Everyone had been telling me what I rock-star I was up to this point - this being my first live birth - since we were progressing at such a rapid pace without pain medication.
My theory is that I went into labor naturally at the same time as being induced, which I believe created a much faster and more furious birthing process.
It was now a little after 11AM in the morning. The nurse told me the head had crowned, and I vaguely recall seeing it briefly in the mirror - with some fuzzy black hair matted on top. Lifting my head up to look was more effort than I could muster. Then somehow I summoned the last bit of energy I had, as they were trying to get me to look at my son's head that was now out of the birth canal. I must've been on autopilot for the final push. I was too exhausted to even look.
Then moments later was the coolest sensation I have ever experienced, like an warm tender octopus was quickly slipping out of my body - whoosh! I labored for around 11.5 hours and our son was born! My husband called my Dad and informed him that it was a boy. He was placed on my chest and he was helped by the nurses to breastfeed for the first time. I was still in that other world, and I sang to him the lullaby's my mother sang to me as a child. The midwife sewed-up my 2nd degree tear. Then I was taken with the nurse to the bathroom and she inserted a catheter to get me to pee - it was really uncomfortable! Then I was reunited with our baby boy and pushed in a wheelchair to a different hospital room. Since I tested positive for Group B Strep, and they were only able to get 1 dose of antibiotics onboard during my accelerated labor, we would be staying the night for another 2 nights.
Thus began my postpartum hell . . . peppered with postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum depression, postpartum insomnia, and so much more . . .
Please post in the comments below - does my story resonate with your birthing experiences in any way?
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