So…did I do it? Did I go natural? Does anyone but me care? Too bad if you don’t; labor story follows. So do some unflattering but honest pictures of me in labor also follow.*
Guglielmo’s induction was scheduled for Friday morning at 5AM. All week I kept hoping my body would go into labor naturally but even a very pleasant stripping-of-the-membranes didn’t yield any results. On Thursday I went in for a Foley catheter in a last-ditch attempt to get this party started and I was so happy when my back started hurting within the hour. The backache is always my first sign of labor.
Hypnobabies teaches you to welcome the feeling of contractions, as they are helping your body—not hurting it. It was easy to welcome these ones all evening; they were actually kind of cute and could be forgotten about by placing a hot pack on my back.
The contractions started to feel more real around 10, coming about every 10 minutes and requiring some deep breathing to get through. I put on some Hypnobabies and felt a little less anxious because the hypnosis really did make the contractions easily bearable; I actually fell asleep for an hour or so, right through the contractions. The night continued that way, with me alternating Hypnobabies and world music, plus a break to fix my hair (there will be cameras at the hospital!) and give myself a manicure.
At around 3AM the contractions got notably stronger and I couldn’t talk through them. I spent them contractions crawling position, rocking back and forth and trying to breathe deeply and relax…release…relax…as my CDs have been telling me. I started worrying that I might be in false labor, as my Foley hadn’t fallen out, and every time a contraction hit it hurt so bad I told myself, “Who cares if I get an epidural? I don’t have to prove anything!” But then I noticed that in the breaks between contractions I was fine and it hadn’t seemed so bad. I noticed all I had to do was take about four deep breaths for each contraction and then it was over, so I just kept telling myself, “It’s not so bad,” and suddenly it wasn’t. Really!
Anyway, I decided I’d just wait for my induction appointment at 5 to go to the hospital, since it was probably false labor anyway. We packed up and headed out at 4:45, me tuned into Hypnobabies and Kevin his usual cool cucumber of a self.
I was still in a lot of pain (“discomfort,” as Hypnobabies calls it) and having to get onto all fours during contractions while we waited for the nurse who would induce me to come get us. She walked us down to the room, waiting for me during contractions, and I could see the vials for pitocin laid out on a tray at the end of the birthing bed. I heard her make a phone call and say the induction wouldn’t be necessary because the mother is in active labor. I couldn’t believe my ears…she hadn’t checked my cervix yet, but she was making the call? This wasn’t false labor?!
Once I got into the bed the nurse checked me and said, “Looks like you’re at 7 or 8 centimeters.” HOLY CRAP. I was doing it! I was really doing this! On my own!!!! I was going to make it!!!!!! I was hugely, HUGELY relieved and also fairly incredulous, as I’ve never checked into the maternity ward farther than 4 centimeters before.
It took about a half hour for them to get things hooked up (fetal heart monitor, contraction monitor, IV for Group B Strep antibiotics, etc), and then I was able to plug into a Hypnobabies CD again and focus all my energy on relaxing and breathing. It’s kind of crazy to have to be so intense about relaxing, but it was working. I was in transition now and each contraction would take about 8 deep breaths. 3 of those breaths seemed unbearable, but the other 5 breaths I could believe, like the CDs said, were relaxing. I kept thinking of it as the good kind of pain—as opening the way for the baby, as rubbing out a kink.
The contractions stepped it up another notch and I started “ohhhhh’ing” and “ahhhhhh’ing” during them. I could hear the nurses whispering to Kevin how calm and in control I was. I kept my eyes closed and just kept trying to relax, though it was getting harder and harder. My hands went numb all the way up to my elbows for awhile from the deep breathing, so they gave me an oxygen mask that helped immensely.
I could feel the slightest urge to push so the doctor checked and I was at 10 centimeters during contractions. I opened my eyes long enough to ask, “Can I start pushing?” She answered calmly, “Whenever you feel ready.” It all felt so calm and peaceful, even though there was some crazy pain going on. It was manageable! It hadn’t been on my last pregnancies, but I was breathing deeply and it was manageable!!
I had a lot of strength on my first couple pushes. My contractions were still going strong but I was able to push through them. I had a hard time staying relaxed while pushing, though, which is something I realized I needed to do. Without being able to focus solely on breathing and staying calm, my uterus and everything down there started tensing up and fighting the push.
Fortunately my contractions started to get a little less painful, and also fortunately all the positive messages from Hypnobabies started coming back to me. I felt like I was kind of out of body, or like I had just passed out and people were helping me come to. I was registering what they were saying but through a haze. I started whisper-yelling, “PEACE…PEACE…PEACE…” just like I had been trained to do, and “I am in control,” “My body knows just what to do,” “I don’t have to do anything—just let my body push this baby out,” and something not on the CD’s: “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!!”
I had a moment of panic in there that I couldn’t do it, that I didn’t know how, and why wasn’t somebody helping me? Couldn’t they just pull the baby out for me? They kept telling me I was pushing wrong, that I was pushing through my legs instead of pushing straight down. That’s when I freaked out and stopped the deep breathing and got wild eyes, and then Patty, the head nurse, got right in my face and said, “Rachel, you are in control. You’ve got this and you are in control.”
And instantly I was.
I listened as the birthing team told me to push straight down and to curl around my baby instead of arching back. It felt unnatural but they were so calm and firm and I trusted them. I curled up and pushed and pushed and pushed. It had only been 15 minutes but I already felt like my resources were so drained, like I might die with a stuck baby. I could feel his head—it was right there—but I couldn’t envision pushing such a big thing out.
Then I told myself clearly in my head that no one was going to pull this baby out of me. It’s up to me to push, and even though I’m tired and it hurts there’s only one way to get untired and unhurt, so DO IT. I held my breath and pushed with energy I didn’t have. I could feel him crown. I held my breath one more time and pushed and pushed and pushed and PUUUUSSSSSHHHHED!
And wow, WHAT a feeling that was. To know I wasn’t going to die of a stuck baby I wasn’t pregnant anymore and I did it. I did it!!!! I DID IT!!!!! It was done and I could relax without trying anymore and suddenly I was holding my gorgeous, healthy, red baby on my chest.
I turned to Kevin and asked, “Did this really just happen?” He answered, “Yes.”
And yet it still feels like I am living in a dream.
*Thanks, Michael, for coming to the hospital at 6AM and bearing all the mess of childbirth to take such beautiful pictures! I love having all the pain and joy and wonder captured so artfully.