I woke up at 3:59 in the morning on Friday, July 25th 2008 having to go to the bathroom…again. I had already been up at least 6 times that night with pregnancy induced peeing episodes. At 39 weeks and 6 days gestation, I was done with being pregnant. Gabe and I had been trying to hurry along the delivery process for over a week by that point after being told at our July 7th appointment that the baby was engaged and I was dilated to 3cm. I was tired of waiting, tired of being hungry but having no room for food, tired of not being able to sleep or walk or wear anything but ugly sweat pants. I laid back down, glanced at the alarm clock, which read 4:03am and then felt my first contraction. It was like a warm tightening feeling that crawled up my abdomen to my lower ribs, kind of like a wave rolling over me. I had had a couple of similar contractions prior to Friday morning, but for some reason, that one felt different. I had 4 more similar contractions every 30 minutes, dozing in between until I woke up at 7:30 with the tell-tale sign of early labor (women you know what that is, men, I’ll spare you the details).
At that point, I sat down on the bed and began to cry. It wasn’t a sobbing cry, just tears. I remember telling Gabe, “I can’t do this…I can’t be a mom.” Suddenly, the reality of having a baby had set in. Being a first time mom, I was assured by my doula, Keri Reidel, that I would have a bout of anxiety at the beginning of labor, but that it would fade away and the ‘workhorse’ part of a laboring woman would take over. I woke Gabe up and sent him frantically scrambling around the house, gathering food items, water, clothes…taking care of things that I thought I had ready that weren’t ready at all – my first error in the laboring process. I was sure that by noon I would have my baby and all would be well. I called Keri and said “I think we’re going to have a baby today!” She, of course, was quick to get to business asking me how intense the contractions were, how far apart, how many I’d had. None of the answers had her thinking I would be pushing a baby out anytime soon. At this point, the contractions were lasting for maybe 15-20 seconds and were spaced anywhere from 30-45 minutes apart. She said, “Well, why don’t you go for a walk and call me when they’re closer together and lasting a bit longer.”
Gabe and I woke up, got dressed in our battle regalia (what we thought would be the best for labor) and began the process of waiting. The rush of adrenaline was a bit much. I, for one, knew that I should have been resting. I should have simply laid down and gone back to sleep. But, instead, I went on a long walk, called my parents and told them they would soon be grandparents, went on another walk, watched a movie and by 2pm it seemed that the contractions had all but stopped. Keri told me to relax and not go for any more walks. She told me to try and rest and, for my part I did, but the excitement was all too much and when I would lay down I could feel the contractions so much better and that got me even more excited. I was obsessing over the baby’s movements, drinking more juice than I had during the entirety of my pregnancy (which kept me awake even more) and counting kicks like I five year old counts pennies. I told Gabe, “You should try and sleep…you should nap…” to which he responded, “I know, but I want to go weed the garden and clean up the kitchen…I need to hang that hook up in the baby’s room yet.” In Gabe’s mind he had decided not to sleep.
At about 3 o clock that afternoon the contractions became fairly constant, about 20-30 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 30-45 seconds. At this point, we were all fairly certain that the labor was, in fact real and progressing. Gabe continued to mill about the house, unable to lay down. I was beside myself with anxiety for what my idea of “labor” was to begin. This may be a good place to interject what that idea was. Now, I considered myself pretty well prepared for labor. I had read a bunch of natural childbirthing books, talked with other women, had a doula who taught us classes and talked endlessly with me about what labor and delivery were going to be like. I had a birth plan that I was confident in, knew what everyone’s roles in the room were going to be, or at least had some idea of it anyway and had a ton of faith in myself that I was tough enough to get through the birth “pain free.” That said, at about 9:30 that night, Keri felt that I was in enough pain that she should come over. So, she did. We went for a short walk that seemed to really help bring the contractions on closer together. We listened to music. I labored for at least an hour bent over the side of my bed in a prayer like position. I labored some on the birth ball and slow danced with Gabe through a few contractions, but ultimately found it easiest to labor in my rocking chair. I really liked laboring in the middle of the night, with dim lighting and soft music playing. I found it very soothing. I labored in the chair for about an hour before I felt a change in pressure. This change in pressure made the contractions a bit more intense and it felt, finally like there was something there to push out. When I vocalized this change, Keri thought, for sure that I was at least 5cm dilated. I didn’t know how to check myself so opted instead to go to the hospital. My initial idea was to labor at home as long as possible, but at that moment I felt that it may be nice to transition to a hospital setting before I became too uncomfortable that I couldn’t walk in there on my own.
I remember being scared of stalling out once I arrived at the hospital. I had read about it happening to many women and was sure it would happen to me. The change from the lovely calm of night to the over-lit florescent floors of a hospital proved to be too much for my laboring body. The nurses in the ob ward checked me into the hospital by placing me in a triage room (a very impersonal space with terrible lighting) and immediately hooking me up to monitors. I was still having contractions but they had almost doubled in time between them. When I left the house I was ever 1-2 minutes and when I got to the hospital, they space to about 3-4 minutes. I instantly felt defeated and upset that I was in the hospital at all. Gabe and I had wanted a natural birth, attended by midwives. We had been going to the Birth and Women’s Center in Topeka before leaving Kansas and loved it. We were so comfortable with our care there and knew that a natural birth would be easy to obtain and encouraged. One of the hardest parts about our decision to move to South Dakota was leaving the Birth Center. Until very recently (July 7th, 2008) midwives could not attend or facilitate births outside of a hospital setting in South Dakota. The harsh laws against midwifery practice in the state have left an almost vacant pool of alternatives to a hospital birth. I had offers from friends to sneak a midwife in from North Dakota or Minnesota. Of course, we could always travel somewhere else, but who really wants to do that?? So, Gabe and I decided that we would hire a doula and make it her number one priority to see to it that our birth happened the way we wanted it to happen. If it meant fighting the system and signing paper after paper of non-consent than we would do it – anything to get the birth we wanted. So, for me to go to the hospital that early made me quite nervous, but I honestly thought that transition was fast approaching. Turns out, it wasn’t – I was only dilated to 3.5. I felt defeated. I felt like the hospital caused me to stall. So, we went home.
Gabe and Keri tried with great gusto to calm me about the situation. I was exhausted, so at 3 in the morning I laid down for a little while. I was in bed until about 5. Gabe slept a little and I tried desperately to doze between contractions but I found myself, instead, thinking only of the hours to come. I wanted the last 12 hours back so I could rest. I wanted to start over. I didn’t want to go into the second half of my labor exhausted, but it turns out, that was all I could do. I woke everyone up at 5 and again began the process of trying to get my labor progressing. More slow dancing with Gabe, more rocking chair, more birth ball. I tried to eat and it didn’t work. I had a terribly upset stomach. I tried ginger ale and ginger candy, both of which I threw up. The only thing I could keep down was water.
Around 7:30 in the morning I decided that it was time to just go to the hospital. Keri suggest that Gabe call and request that we go immediately into a birthing suite rather than the triage room. The first few moments in the birthing room were a bit intense. Gabe and I had to explain to the nurses everything that we thought we had communicated through our birth plan. They felt the need to ask us every question out loud however. I remember one of our nurses asking me what my ‘acceptable’ level (on a scale of 1-10) of pain was, to which I promptly answered “eleven.” I didn’t want them offering me meds. They decided to hook me up to the monitors for only 10 minutes every hour. Other than that, I was surprised at how hands-off the nurses were. I was checked and decidedly 4cm dilated. Although this wasn’t much change since the day before, it was good to know that I had at least progressed through early labor. I was told that Dr. Carelson would be our doctor (one of the other OB’s in our OB practice). I thought that I was going to be really upset about the fact that we couldn’t have our natural-birth friendly OB with us during the birth, but the doctor that we ended up with was a very ‘hands-off’ sort of guy and really seemed to respect our desire to just be left alone. He only came in a couple of times during the labor to see how I was progressing. He was very respectful.
I labored for almost three hours before I was checked again. The labor did seem to be getting more intense. I was becoming really vocal for the first time. I labored in the rocking chair, on the birth ball, in the bed, crawling around, leaning on Gabe, walking in the hallways and even hunched over the edge of the bathtub in the bathroom. I was so tired. So tired of feeling like nothing was happening. I just wanted to have my baby. I remember that I had read of someone using the mantra, “I am a woman. I am made to do this,” as a means of getting through contractions. I found myself closing my eyes and chanting this to myself over and over again. I just to keep in mind that although it hurt and it burned, that it wouldn’t kill me. Before I had arrived at the hospital all sorts of dreamlike visualizations had come to me during contractions. One of the most vivid was of standing inside a glorious church with ceilings as tall as anything I could imagine. Not being overly religious, I found the visualization kind of startling, but for that contraction it was a very peaceful place to be. I pictured trees blowing in the wind. I remember visualizing the lake that Gabe and I had hiked to last September in Colorado. I remember thinking about how cold it was, how much I was shaking and how good it felt when the sun finally came out and shined on our dark, wet clothing.
Sometime during those first hours at the hospital, Gabe got very emotional. I remember him hanging his head and not looking at me through contractions. I remember him being away from me in between the contractions, sitting on the sofa and sobbing. He was quiet for the first time, no longer talking me through things. I knew it was happening. I knew that he was finding it really hard to watch me go through the pain and he was trying to be as strong as he could, but I don’t think he was as prepared for how difficult it would be at all. I couldn’t really pay attention to him as much as I wanted to. I couldn’t reassure him that it was going to be allright. I was on a different planet. Still, he came to me every time a contraction started. He molded to whatever I needed him to be. He held me up. He supported me, let me lean on him, bite him, spit on him, and push him. He rubbed my back, fed me ice chips and anything else I asked of him. I remember that Keri kept trying to get him to eat but he was too busy trying to keep me comfortable. He was silent through everything and I tried not to look directly at him because I knew that his eyes were swollen with tears and he wasn’t coping well. Instead, I stared at Keri. She reminded me with every contraction to stay on top of them, to breath through them, keep my jaw relaxed. She encouraged me to walk and pushed me to change positions as often as I felt I could. She fed me ice chips – the only thing that was successful in calming my urge to throw up. She got me out of bed, into the bathroom. Although her and I didn’t know each other very well at all prior to my labor, she made me very comfortable. She wasn’t afraid of coming into the bathroom with me and letting me hang on her. It was great to have her there because I knew she wasn’t wavering. Looking back on it, she was definitely what kept me in labor and not overly emotional. Had it just been Gabe and I, I may have not have stayed focused through the really hard parts of labor.
With the labor intensifying, emotions running high and energy running low, I was eager to hear what Dr. Carelson would say at his 11am checkup. He came in, checked me, and said confidently, “I would say your at a 6.” I looked at him and said “really?” That was all I needed to hear. After 30 hours of laboring between 3 and 4cm dilation I just needed to know that things were moving. Gabe and I immediately started crying. It was so good to hear that the hard work was actually paying off – especially after being told all those times that we hadn’t progressed at all. Hearing the news gave us a bit more energy to keep going. The doctor also pointed out that I had a bulging bag of waters and that he would be back at one to check me and suggested that at that time he may suggest breaking the bag just to get labor progressing. I think he could tell by our outburst of emotion that we were tired and had been laboring for quite some time.
So the labor game continued. Gabe was emotional. Keri was strong and I was on another planet. I remember walking a bit, hunching over railings and trying my best not to yell. I was oddly self conscious about the volume of my voice at this point. I knew that there were other women in the rooms next to me who had just had their babies and were enjoying their snuggling time and I felt bad ruining their moment. Also, I didn’t want the nurses to think I was in exorbitant amounts of pain. I didn’t want them offering me anything.
At 1pm the doctor came back in and determined I was 7cm and did in fact suggest that we break the water. I was so distraught over the whole thing and Keri knew it. She asked if we could have some time to talk about it and the doctor agreed to give us time. He said he would come back in an hour. She knew that I didn’t want any interventions, but I was tired. I was beyond tired and I was beginning to get that feeling that I might not make it another 3 cm. I looked at Keri and she knew that I wanted him to do it, but I also didn’t want it to cause some unforeseen waterfall of interventions that would eventually lead to me having a c-section. I really wanted to have my baby naturally. Keri said, “Erica, give me three contractions can you do that?” I nodded yes. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. More than anything, I wanted to try. After three contractions she asked for another three. I said that I couldn’t and she said, “You just gave me three. You can give me three more.” I nodded, but by this time the contractions were so close together I couldn’t really form thought. There were beginning to piggyback on each other as well. I remember that some contractions began lasting twice as long and at the end they would just hang on long enough to ebb into the next contraction. These were so intense. I would throw my head back and try and “ahh” through them. At about 40 after I told Keri that I wanted him to break the water. Keri asked the nurse to have him come in and do it, but the nurse said that he wouldn’t be back until one. It was funny to me at the time, because even when I had given up, something from above had intervened to keep me laboring without the intervention for 20 more minutes – proof that I could do it. At one o clock however, the doctor reemerged and I still hadn’t ruptured the bag on my own and so I asked him to do it. I needed to hurry the process along because I was too tired to go on any longer than necessary. I needed a little push. I’m confident had I just rested the day before, while in early labor, I could have ruptured the bag on my own, but because I was so tired, I agreed to hurry the process up a little bit. After he ruptured the bag he said, “well, you still look to be about a 7,” to which I promptly responded, “shut up!”
I think I caught everyone in the room off guard. I really hadn’t meant to yell at him, but I just wanted to be progressing so badly. I needed to progress or I knew that I would give up and ask for interventions that I wasn’t quite ready for. After the water broke, things moved along pretty quickly. I remember that I found a little red light on the TV in the room and stared at it intently through numerous contractions. I found focal points to be of great help to me during this phase of labor. I stared at Keri. I was still unable to look at Gabe because there was too much fear in his eyes – to much helplessness.
The nurse checked me at 3pm and said that I was at an 8 and a half. I knew that the baby was coming fast at this point. I could feel the pressure and suddenly I remember the feeling of needing to poop. I didn’t vocalize any of this because I was in the throngs of transition. I don’t remember much of what was happening. I knew that I wanted to try and get up, that I didn’t want to have the baby in the bed. I pointed at the floor. I wanted to crawl on the floor. I wanted to lean on Gabe. I tried it and it didn’t work. Keri told me later that I was too tired. She said that I tried a couple of times to get up but every time I would go down to the floor or sit on the edge of the bed. Somewhere between 3 and 3:30 I just crawled back into bed.
At some point I remember my eyes getting huge. I remember feeling her beginning to come out. I looked at Keri and she said, “Erica, are you pushing?” To which I responded, “Yeah. Yeah I think so.” It was intense and I can’t really recall what it felt like other than I had to push something out of me. At this point the nurse came in, tried to get me hooked up to the monitors, but found that all she could do was get the heart monitor under the waist of my skirt. I remember her checking me and instantly clicking this little thing around her neck. I remember that it made me nervous. It looked like she activating some emergency system. She noticed the terror on my face and said “Don’t worry, I’m just getting the other nurses in here.” And so it began. The nurses ascended on my room like hungry vultures. Pretty soon there were these huge stage-like lamps on me, women busting out stirrups, the one nurse frantically paging for the doctor, knowing she was running out of time. Keri was trying to keep me focused asking me to pant through the contractions and asking me not to push because the doctor wasn’t there yet. I wanted to pant through them but I couldn’t do it. It was time for my little girl to enter the world. Pretty soon there was an ER doctor in the room, the fall back to the OB, who we were told was just scrubbing in. I didn’t care. I needed to push a baby out. So finally the doctor arrived and immediately he said, “Erica, I don’t want to cut you. I need you to blow through the contractions. You’re pushing when you blow through them, but we need you to slow down and stretch.” As much as I wanted to do it, as much as I tried, and I think I did blow through a couple contractions, there was no stopping the delivery. I panted like a sweating dog. Keri said, “I can see her. I can see her! She’s got hair. It’s dark hair.” I remember looking for Gabe who was standing up behind me. I looked once at him and he was crying so hard and almost smiling. He looked like he was in shock. He kept saying, “She’s here Erica. She’s here. Our girl is here.” But, it didn’t feel like she was here. At this point the heart monitor fell out from under my skirt and nurse grabbed it and tried to find her heartbeat and couldn’t do it. She looked at the doctor and I remember him saying, “We’ll just have to hope for the best.” I immediately responded to this, saying, “What the hell does that mean?” Keri, ever the saint, swooped in and said, “Erica, she’s just fine. Breath.” I put my head back, hunkered down pushed. I didn’t care. I pushed with all my might and then I panted again. I pushed again and the doctor said, “Slow down, we have a cord problem. Erica I need you to slow down.” I tried to breath slow I tried to not push, and didn’t I just panted and with every deep pant I felt her inch her way out. Until finally the last little push, the final rush. Keri opened the top of my gown and onto my chest came a beautiful little baby. I remember looking at her and her little head came up and her eyes opened. She cried with almost a low purr. It was the most glorious sound I’d ever heard. With that Erielle Sage came into the world at 3:45 pm weighing 7lbs, 12oz.
Looking back on the birth I wouldn’t change a thing save for resting more on the first day. As demonic as I had made the hospital out to be, they allowed me to have a very natural birth with little intervention. I knew that the most important thing for me was that my baby came into the world as pure as she was created. As hard as it was, I don’t feel like I did any of it for me. I did it all for her. I wish I could relive those few moments after her birth everyday. The feeling is simply indescribable.
Keri called us awesome. She knew that as hard as it was for me, it was so hard for Gabe as well and he was right by my side every step of the way. As difficult as it was for him, he never wavered. He did every little thing I asked and more. Keri for her part, acted as the side of me that wasn’t in labor. She was the little voice in my head trying to get out, trying to remind me to just stay in it and stay focused. I couldn’t have done any of it without the two of them. More than them, I couldn’t have done it without Erielle. So many times, in the days before her birth, I would talk to her and ask her to be brave. I told her if she could stay strong than I could stay strong. We did it together. It was the most amazing day of my life and, as painful and difficult as it was, I would do it all over again.http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/inde...ageID=40915925http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/inde...ageID=40640736http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/inde...ageID=40640262