I woke up around 4:30 on the morning of Grace's birth. Like anyone who is 39 weeks pregnant, I had to pee. And then I couldn't go back to sleep.
I'd been having false (Braxton Hicks) contractions for weeks, so I wasn't holding my breath or anything when I noticed more. But they didn't go away and they hurt more than usual. After about an hour or so of getting them about 20 minutes apart, I was pretty sure that this was "the day."
Should I wake up Marc? I decided not to. At least one of us should sleep. In fact, I even let him go to work for a few hours. No hurry... as long as my water didn't break (like it did with my last child!).
If you've every been to a childbirth class or read about labor coping techniques, you know that there are a million ways you can deal with contractions. You can walk, rock, kneel or squat, sit on a ball, breathe methodically, sit in a shower or tub, and think about sandy beaches or whatever suits your fancy. In previous experiences, all my preparation flew out the window and I ultimately just writhed in pain begging for mercy/epidural. With James I got one, but at Jonathan's birth he was well on his way out before you could spell anesthesiologist.
This time around I was under no illusions about the process. Being modern and proactive and all, I decided to laze around in bed and play on my iPhone/doze off when possible while the boys played with Grandma. The contractions slowly but steadily got closer together.
It worked for me. I was cranky about waking up so early and didn't know when I'd have a chance to sleep again (so far, never). Forget labor, I wanted to go back to bed! Secondly, I wasn't in a huge hurry to "speed it along" by walking or squatting or whatever the pros do.
Oh, one more thing. I decided to be a little bit more spiritual than previous times. Birth is an incredibly spiritual experience, and somehow in prior attempts I could only focus on the fruit cup my husband had for lunch and random paintings on the delivery room walls. So this time, I had been practicing prayer and meditation through pain.
I can't really explain it well because it is a practice done without many words...but I just did the best I could to clear my mind and focus on the presence of God. Sometimes I'd do pattern breathing (I guess that was handy after all), and sometimes I'd read or recited Psalm 63...Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water...
And sometimes I'd browse Facebook and Twitter. You know, modern and proactive and spiritual.
Noonish rolled around and my contractions were in the textbook 5-7 minute apart range, i.e. go time. Marc came home and we were off to the hospital. Since most births aren't so speedy, the hospital staff was somewhat leisurely about admitting me. I paced around and panted like an animal, which must be completely normal to them. Then we went to the triage room, where I continued to pace and moan and avoid what looked like the most uncomfortable chair I had ever seen (although on a normal day it would have been fine).
To keep the mood light, Marc pulled up our obsession at the time on his phone, Parks and Recreation. As much fun as I had on my phone earlier in the day, I suddenly got very angry and wanted to chuck Leslie Knope across the room. Okay then. When our nurse showed up, she took one look at me and decided to skip the paperwork for now and check my progress.
Sidenote: what's with the administrative stuff on admittance? Isn't that what I preregistered for? Really my only complaint about the hospital...
So the nurse looked at me after examining the unmentionable and said, "You want to guess how far dilated you are?" I told her I had no idea. And secretly, I thought, "If you tell me something like 3 centimeters, then I am going to throw a fit." Maybe throw a phone.
"8 centimeters!" She smiled as she gave the news.
Woohoo! I think I might have said that. Suddenly there was an urgency among the staff and I was shuttled off to my delivery room.
If you hadn't noticed, medication wasn't anywhere in the plan. I knew I didn't need it because last time with Jonathan's birth I made it without it. I also wanted to attempt a water birth.
Yeah that's right. The hospital is fairly modern and progressive and does water births. The thought grossed me out at first (toilet water anyone?!!) but then after talking with my OB, watching some videos and reading up on it, it seemed like it actually might be kinda nice. At least dealing with the most intense contractions in a warm bath sounded appealing.
They started filling the tub, and I paced the delivery room in eager anticipation, while in excruciating pain every couple of minutes. "God!" I said. "We're gonna do this! Thank you God for getting me through this! You are awesome!" At this point I was shaking from the adrenaline.
I guess God didn't think the water birth was right for me. They set me up on some monitors and said the heart rate wasn't where they wanted it to be so no tub -- not to mention that it was already almost time to push.
Almost time to push?!! Could we be there already?
At this point I was lying on a bed, breathing my way through those horrible transition contractions. Marc asked what he could do. I asked him to hold my hand, stroke my hair and remind me how awesome I was. He also answered medical history questions. Seriously, we were still in the admittance process.
Time to push. My water hadn't broken yet. Marc says that they broke it then, although I seriously don't remember.
I told myself that pushing was not so bad, based on what I could remember.
Ha! Must have been selective memory. Pushing the head out really hurts. Like being ripped open with a jagged knife must be pretty comparable. I hadn't adequately prepared myself for this.
I don't know what it is about screaming -- but it's totally instinctive when your body thinks it's being tortured. I felt like I was watching myself and was completely puzzled by my behavior. "Gina, stop screaming at the top of your lungs. It's not helping. You sound ridiculous. It will all be over in a minute. Please stop. Seriously, this is embarrassing."
Fortunately for what remained of my self-image (having a room full of people look at you almost naked while you're screaming makes it pretty minimal), it was over very quickly. Grace must have felt my pain because she came out screaming. No worries about her health there!
For the record, we were admitted to the hospital around 12:30. Grace was born at 1:45.
It's a strange and exhilarating feeling holding your baby for the first time. I was intrigued by this little stranger in my arms and just wanted to stare at her all day and get to know her. At the same time I was still shaking and wanted to vomit. And sleep.
But we made it to the other side! Really though, as every mom knows, this wasn't the end but rather more like the beginning of the fourth trimester. Ah, what a journey...