I think I will start with the day before she was born. I was feeling exhausted, both physically and emotionally. I was having trouble sleeping at night and my whole body just plain hurt. Because I was planning a VBAC, I was worried that I wouldn’t go into labor on time and would have to be induced (which I was sure would lead to another c-section). Josh sensed that I needed some down-time and offered to take the kids with him to a fundraiser he was overseeing that evening. It was just what I needed. My friend brought me dinner and I sat alone, eating and watching the 1959 movie, “Imitation of Life.” I had heard that having a good cry was a good way to prepare or labor and that movie was listed as a tear-jerker. They were right! I bawled like a baby! When it was over I watched a few minutes of a “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” episode and had a good laugh. By the end of the night I felt relaxed and at ease- something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Around 4am I woke up to a noticeable contraction. I had been having contractions for weeks, but this one felt a little different. I waited and, sure enough, another one came about 8 minutes later. Cautiously hoping that this might finally be the real thing, I got out of bed and threw in a load of laundry. Then I paid some bills, tidied up the kitchen and prayed a rosary. The contractions continued and were between 5-7 minutes apart, lasting about a minute each. I know they say to go to the hospital when they are 5-1-1, but these were so manageable, and I still wasn’t SURE that labor was underway, so I never considered leaving at that point. I took a shower and then woke up Josh around 6am.
By 7am I was feeling more confident that little Mariana was going to make her appearance later that day. I called my mom to tell her and then I called our doula. She also happens to be a midwife, so she offered to come over and check my cervix to see where I was, and if we should go to the hotel where we planned to labor, or just go straight to the hospital. She got there around 8 or 8:30am and I was 2 cm dilated… meaning I wasn’t yet in active labor. I wasn’t surprised, although I was a bit freaked out because the contractions were feeling so intense.
We got everything loaded in the van and left the house at 9:30 (I think). The plan was to make the hour drive into Birmingham, check into the Marriot across from the hospital, and call the doula when things picked a bit. She would come and monitor my progress, as well as monitor the baby’s heartbeat. When she determined I was close to the end, we would go to the hospital and finish the birth out. Being a VBAC, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure the baby and I were safe.
Josh was hungry, so we went through the drive-thru at the Hanceville McDonald’s. That’s only 10 minutes from our house, and in that time, the intensity of the contractions seemed to pick up a lot. I started vocalizing, trying to keep quiet so the drive-thru attendant didn’t hear me.
Even though I yelled mercilessly at Josh for going what I consider “the long way” to the hotel, the drive actually went pretty fast. I guess I was just consumed by pain and lost track of time. Laboring in the van was not fun. At all. We had taken one of the back captains seats out, and I was kneeling on the floor, holding onto a seat belt of the backseat for dear life during each contraction. They felt close together and they hurt like nothing I have ever experienced. I was miserable and “vocalizing” very loudly. Josh ran in to check in and I tried to muffle my yelling so people wouldn’t hear me and look in. He came back and told me he could only get a room on the second floor.
It turned out our room- 214- was pretty far from where we parked. And the elevator was broken. I wasn’t having a lot of time in between contractions and even during the small breaks I was hurting. I was also wearing no shoes. Funny how you can care about what people think even when in the worst pain of your life. I booked it as fast as I could down those halls and up those stairs despite being hugely pregnant and in what I now know was transition.
I got into the room, stripped off my clothes and got into the tub. I was way too uncomfortable and felt hot, so I immediately got out. I tried sitting on the toilet and that didn’t seem to work either. I was shaking a little and each contraction sent me up onto my feet.
Now, I am very familiar with the textbook signs of transition, and I know I was experiencing every single one of those signs (except vomiting… I didn’t do that). However, I felt sure that I was not in transition for two reasons. First, I was only 2 cm dilated an hour before. Second, I had myself convinced that I was a huge baby when it came to pain and that I was just not handling things well. I distinctly remember crying out desperately that I was doing it all wrong and just couldn’t make it.
The problem I had was that I didn’t think there was any way I was going to be able to make it back down the stairs and into the van. I was yelling and ranting and raving too much and people would definitely notice. I felt utterly trapped in my body and in the hotel.
During all this time, my poor husband endured my screaming without a word- even when I was screaming at him. He was so worried that someone was going to come to the door or call the police because I was so loud, and he kept looking out of the peephole of the door. This drove me crazy since I could see him do it every time. I remember screaming like a crazy woman for him to stop it.
About 15 minutes (?) after getting into the room, I had a contraction that was accompanied by a different sensation. I kind of felt like I had to have a bowel movement. I knew that that was sometimes a sign that it was time to push, but since I DID have a small bowel movement, I just figured I needed to “go.” Looking back, I can’t believe how much denial I was in. I had so little confidence in myself and the belief that I could have a baby naturally, that I wasn’t able to accept the obvious signs.
It took about 5 minutes before I finally realized that I was pushing. I didn’t tell Josh right away because I didn’t want him to freak out and try to make me go down the stairs or something (which he wouldn’t have done, but at the time I was terrified of the possibility). By this time I was in the main room. I had laid a towel on the floor and was going from all fours to my knees to my knees and elbows, over and over again. And I wasn’t just yelling anymore. I was screaming in a way that I could never re-create. I had two washcloths that I was smashing against my face to try to muffle the sound a bit. I didn’t want anyone coming in the room or bothering me.
Josh said he was going to call the doula and tell her to head this way. He thought I was in transition. I had another contraction and I got down on my elbows, which must have given him a clear view of my nether-regions because I heard him say, “Uh… I see hair. We need to go!” I’m pretty sure I screamed to him that I wasn’t going anywhere. He told the doula on the phone what was going on and she said to call the EMT’s right away, which he did.
Pushing was a strange thing. I now understand why people say you become like an animal once you reach transition and pushing. That’s exactly what it was like. I was not in control over myself in a rational way, and yet my body knew just what to do to get the job done. No one needed to tell me what to do and no one could have stopped me. It felt like a train going through me. The amount of power was incredible. And yes, it hurt like you-know-what. It was awful. In my head I kept remembering what people had told me- how all the pain stopped as soon as the baby came out- and that became my focus. Give in to the urges and get her out. Happily, there are very definite breaks during pushing when all the pain stops. They are super-short breaks, but enough to gather your thoughts- or to tell your husband to grab a towel because the baby was coming. I also managed to tell him that when her head came out, feel to make sure the cord wasn’t around her neck and that when her body came out to start rubbing it.
Then I pushed. I could feel her head crown and then go back in. I pushed and felt the infamous “ring of fire.” Honestly, that wasn’t that bad. Then her head has truly crowning and not receding and that was a horrible feeling. Josh encouraged me to use gravity to help, so I got off my elbows and reared up onto my knees- and her head came out. Then another huge push and her body came out. Since he caught her from behind, I couldn’t see anything. She cried though, and that was the best sound in the world.
I wasn’t sure how to turn around since the cord was attached to me and the baby. Josh told me to get off my knees so the blood would flow in the right direction in the cord (which I think was pretty smart of him). I sort of sat on one butt-cheek and he handed me the baby. She was warm and wet and sticky. Her eyes were wide open and she was alert. It was wonderful, even though I was exhausted and concerned about the meconium all over the floor (I though it was in the fluid, but Josh told me later that she pooped as soon as he caught her, so it was fresh).
The paramedics came in 5 minutes later. Three big guys, and they were wonderful. I really wish we knew their names so I could send them thank you’s. Oddly enough, a woman came in with the stretcher and she was the only one who looked freaked out. They checked out the baby (perfect APGAR), swaddled her in a pillowcase, and honored my request to refrain from sticking an IV in me. Then they loaded me onto the stretcher and we went to the hospital. They were so excited! I was feeling weak and uncomfortable. All I could think was that I needed to deliver the placenta so that they didn’t have to do anything to “help” it out at the hospital.
I got into labor and delivery and some very nice nurses helped clean me up and got my info. I delivered the placenta with no problem and finally started to feel better. They cleaned the baby up and asked if it was okay to let her warm up on me. I was all about it! They laid her naked little body against my chest and covered us with warm blankets. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.