It's been 8 weeks since the birth of my daughter, even though it already feels like a lifetime ago. I'm so grateful that the day of her birth is a sacred memory that I get to carry with me forever. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, followed by the most special feeling I've ever had.
Labor started late in the evening before her due date at 9pm, and came on quite suddenly and strong. I was not expecting it since I had convinced myself that first time moms tend to go past their due dates and have slow progressing labors. I knew I would need my energy so I tried to sleep through the contractions. For the first hour or so, I had just enough time to barely fall asleep before another wave would hit. My husband was in bed with me timing them, and they were about 7 minutes apart. I quickly realized how my mindset and energy affected the pain, so I came up with some hand signals to let him know when each one started instead of yelling out "OKAY HERE IT COMES." After an hour or so, we decided to stop timing them so we could maybe get some sleep. When I realized I no longer had enough time to fall asleep between contractions, I thought it would be a good idea to start the timer again. They were now 2 1/2 - 3 minutes apart, and it wasn't even midnight yet. Bay called our doula to ask her to head on over, knowing she was 45 minutes away. The plan was to labor at home as long as possible, with the help of our doula, but I could see there wouldn't be much time for that.
It didn't take very many contractions with me on hands and knees in the bathroom floor to know that we needed to get the hospital asap. So much for that shower I had planned on, or even brushing my teeth. I could barely get pants and shoes on. The next phone call was letting her know we were on our way, and to just meet us there.
Contractions in the car were as bad as I had heard... it felt like my hips were breaking in half. Luckily the hospital was only about 5 minutes away. In the heat of the moment, Bay parked the car instead of letting me out at the front door. When he realized I could barely walk, he rushed in to the hospital and came running across the parking lot with a wheel chair. It was actually quite comical. Once he got me inside the ER entrance, I went into full on crazy laboring woman mode. It was like something straight out of a movie. I dropped down on that nasty ER floor on all fours and moaned like some kind of animal. It didn't take long before a nurse was pushing me in the wheelchair up to my room. I was in a daze. It was seriously like in a movie when you're being pushed down the hospital hallway and can barely comprehend what's going on.
I didn't mind (or really notice) all the pricking and vital signs checking as much as I thought I would. I knew it had to be done since we chose a hospital birth, so I had already made peace with that part. That allowed me to stay in my zone, somewhere between real life and another world. The nurse checked me and to everyone's surprise, I was already dilated to an 8 or 9. Well no wonder this was so intense, I thought, glad this wasn't what a 3 or 4 felt like!
I labored for another 6 hours though, which actually flew by. I had briefly thought about if I wanted an epidural (if it was even an option at that point), but the thought of scrunching up into a ball to get it administered scared me more than the pain I was already having. There was no way my body was getting into that position. I started on hands and knees on the bed, labored standing and leaning onto the bed, moved onto the exercise ball for a bit, then ended up back in bed on my side. My biggest obstacle was exhaustion. My legs could no longer hold me so my positions were limited. My advice would be to get your legs into shape during pregnancy if you plan on having med-free labor!
It really was a mental game. Without my husband and the doula, I would have gone to some dark places in my mind. Their calm, steady voices were so reassuring, and I never felt alone. My husband held my hand the entire time. I didn't even care that he was falling asleep between contractions, I just needed him close to me. My doula was also right by my side, keeping the room at peace. Keeping me at peace, and especially keeping Bay at peace so he could get me through each contraction. She offered practical suggestions on positions and made sure that nothing was done without my consent. Her presence and support allowed me to stay focused on the task at hand.
After 5 hours of laboring at a 9, I was getting discouraged. After a quick (and incredibly painful check), I was told my water bag was bulging out with each contraction. It had not broken on its own yet. The nurse gave me the option to have it broken. I gave it a couple more contractions then decided to go for it. By the next contraction, I had the urge to push. When people say "urge to push", it really is uncontrollable. I was grunting without trying to with every contraction now. Pushing actually relieved some of the pain, strangely enough. Once she had moved down enough, I resorted to laying on my back with feet in stirrups, exactly what I thought I wouldn't do. I was too tired for any other position though. That's when the real pushing started, which was by far the hardest part of my labor. I pushed for an hour. It was REALLY intense. But it was also really interesting to witness my mind cope with such intense pain. In order to have a good push, I had to go towards the pain. My focus was on making it as painful as possible (because that's when I was told I was doing it right). With each contraction, I pushed 2-3 times while the nurses counted. When I had nothing more to give, I ponied up and pushed for another 6+ count. I found strength when I thought there was none.
FINALLY, without any warning really, she came flying out like superman. Literally, one arm out because her hand was by her face (which is probably why it took so long). I was in a complete daze when they handed me this slimy little being. It was the strangest moment. I knew her and loved her more than anything for 9 months, but I had never seen her. It was like meeting a stranger who you already loved deeply. She was perfect. Life was perfect. She came out bright eyed and latched within 10 minutes. All I could do was stare at her in amazement while trying to ignore the sewing that was going on below. Nothing else mattered. We both made it through and had each other in the end.
I want to emphasize the importance that the doula played in my labor story. The real work was done before labor even began. She encouraged me to address all of my fears and concerns before hand. Because of the work we did, I went into labor with a confident desire to have a med-free birth, but at peace with whatever was necessary to have a healthy baby. She stayed by my side even for an hour or so after birth, and she followed up to make sure everything was okay at home. She held my hand and guided me through this life-changing experience, and made sure that it was a positive story to remember.
Thank you, Julie.
This is the bracelet I made for her, and would like to offer to make for others who have had the pleasure of working with a doula.
Get the bracelet HERE