I woke up on the morning of the 19th knowing I was going to have a baby that day. We had scheduled our induction two days before because little girl was being stubborn and was a week over-due, even though I was almost five centimeters dilated (that's almost half way there, folks). It didn't take us long to get ready that morning and by 7:00am we were on our way to the hospital where we were greeted and admitted. By this point I was pretty psyched and ready to get the show on the road. I mean, I'd waited 41 weeks and two days to meet the little person inside of me, and I was sort of through being patient.
At 8:00am I got my wish and the mid-wife, Lin showed up to check my progress (five centimeters even) and break my water with this long and sort of blunt looking plastic device. Unfortunately, once my water was broken and gushing pretty much everywhere--you're welcome for the visual--we found out that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, so baby had had her first bowel movement in the uterus and had been swimming in her own poo for who knows how long. Unfortunately, this changed things. I went into the hospital hoping for a completely unmedicated birth. I had been praying that simply breaking the waters would start contractions and allow me to go into labor without the use of pitocin, which I was super afraid of. Because of the meconium, however, the mid-wife wanted the baby out sooner rather than later. The longer the labor took the more likely she would be to breathe in the meconium, which could cause serious issues for her after birth. So I was told that if my body didn't start laboring on its own by noon, they wanted to start me on Pitocin.
I think I must have walked a mile up and down the labor and delivery corridor, but as it turns out, even my body is stubborn because all I experienced were a few of the not painful braxton hicks contractions that had gotten me to five centimeters. After a while I sort of gave up on getting things started without the pitocin and snuggled onto my bed for a while with Leighton's iPad and What to Expect When You're Expecting the movie.
Just before noon the nurse came in to start the IV. I was really not looking forward to this because the prospect of being hooked up to one of those coat hangers was unpleasant when all I really wanted was freedom of movement to follow my bodies cues during labor. It hurt going in, but it wasn't the worst thing ever. And it did the trick. By 12:45pm, after turning up the pitocin just once from its lowest setting, I started contracting, and finally, it was painful.
I will say this about labor pains though: they weren't at all what I was expecting. When I imagined them before they were always sharp, stabbing pains and a vise around my belly. In reality, they were waves. They started up high and rolled down low, tightening everything and then starting to ache down at the very bottom of my uterus. It was an intense feeling, but I wonder if pain is necessarily the right word for it? It was unlike any other pain I'd ever experienced. It didn't frighten me or make me think something was wrong with my body. It wasn't a warning. In fact, it was exciting. And though they certainly hurt and took all of my attention to get through, they were neither damaging nor terrifying. They just were.
Once the contractions began, Leighton and I started walking again. Up and down the hallway we went, this time carting my IV thing and slowing down during contractions. Eventually I reached a point where walking through them became difficult, so we returned to the room and I started bouncing on a birthing ball. This is when things really started to pick up and I lost focus on a lot of the things around me. I remember the nurse checking my progress and my being at six to seven centimeters dilated. After that we changed positions frequently. We went from the birthing ball to lying on my side on the bed, to the bidet, to bouncing on the birthing ball in the shower. Throughout it all, Leighton was a rock. He was with me for almost every single contraction. He held my hands, rubbed my shoulders and back, looked me in the eye and told me what a great job I was doing. He made noise with me when I started moaning loud and low through every contraction to get through it, and he helped me move from spot to spot like a champ. I can confidently say that I would never have made it through labor as I did without him there beside me.
While we were in the shower the mid-wife arrived, and she was another gem. She had me lean over a stool with the water hitting my back and rubbed oils into my arms and shoulders. As silly as it may sound, it helped and the pleasant scents gave me something to focus on other than the pain. Finally, I made my way back to the bed in a daze and lay down on my side, clutching Leighton's hand in one of mine and using the side rail of the bed to push my arm against during contractions.
Around seven to eight centimeters Lin and the nurse, Debbie suggested some pain medication through the IV to help me relax between contractions. I accepted without a second thought because I had reached a point where all I could focus on was the next contraction. The medication didn't make them hurt any less, I still felt the same incredible ache... but it did let me close my eyes and just be in the moment between contractions
I started transitioning some time around 6:00pm I think. I was sick and shivering and sweating started asking whether I could have an epidural. Of course I couldn't because I was already nine centimeters dilated, and I knew that, but I kept asking because everything I was feeling was so intense. I cried a little and moaned and talked about how I couldn't do it any more... and then it was time to push.
As surprising as the contractions were to me, the delivery was more so. I always imagined pushing would be the hardest, most painful part of labor, but as it turns out, it was the easiest. Yes, it was physically exhausting and took every ounce of effort in my body. Yes, there was intense pressure and a burning sensation as my body stretched to accommodate the baby's passage through it. And yes, it hurt to do... but it was also natural! My body took over and did what it needed to do without any direction from me. Every push became involuntary, every rest period a much needed chance to breathe before my body went back to work. The intense ache of the contractions disappeared and all I felt was pressure and a need to push. And pushing felt good! It relived the pressure for a while and felt completely natural to do. Because of this, bringing my daughter into the world was simultaneously the most difficult and the easiest thing I've ever done.
At 7:13pm, with Leighton holding my hand and looking me right in the eyes, our daughter was born. I don't think I can do this part of the story justice, but I'll try. All of the difficult pain was gone in an instant. The pressure, the ache, the everything. Gone. And then there was this perfect, precious baby on my belly and I was shaking and crying and telling Leighton over and over again that we had a baby. Her Daddy cut the cord and she was whisked to the other side of the room for a few minutes as they did what they had to do to make sure she didn't have any problems associated with the meconium in her fluids. And then she was back in my arms with her head of dark hair and her wide, dark eyes. We stared at each other for a while and fell in love before I nursed her and then handed her to her father.
Seeing Leighton hold his daughter for the first time nearly made my heart explode in two. I had never loved him more than I did in that moment, and every day since then as I've watched him care for her, my love for him has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled.
From first contraction to delivery, my labor took less than seven hours, but my whole world changed in that time. The image I've always had of myself shifted and I became powerful in my own eyes. The man I loved became a father and through that change, more important to me than ever before. And I became a mother to a perfect baby girl who will forever be the reason I am here and who I know I will grow to love more and more every day she is with me.