(Continued from Part 1)

With The Great Fainting Crisis behind us, Spousal Unit and I determined that the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, which seemed pretty darn serious to us. Especially since we had been told to call the doctors when they were 5 minutes apart. So, we called. On the phone, the doctor told us to definitely come to the hospital. After this, we called our doula C, and told her to meet us there. At the hospital, they first made me do some paperwork (which was stupid because I had sent it all in the previous week.) but finally I was wheeled me up to the maternity ward, which seemed a little more hectic than it was when we were there for our tour the week before. It turns out, there were 14 other women in labor that night, including 3 emergency C-sections. This for a hospital that averages 2 births a day. It was more than a bit nuts. But, ultimately, it was pretty great, because it meant that the medical folk pretty much left us alone because mine was about the easiest birth happening that day. Nobody kept sticking their heads in to pester us about drugs or monitoring or anything.

One of the harried nurses checked us into the birthing room, which was pretty much a nice room with a lovely view of the woods and hills and lakes (although I couldn’t see those yet because it was 3:00 a.m.). I put on my Unit Family Reunion Tee-shirt (we have about a million of them left over so I figured if this one got gross, it was no big loss. Plus, it was blue. As you know, I firmly believe that all things should be blue.) Then, I got onto the "bed" (a fancy bed-like contraption that has handy holding onto bars for gripping, a nicely hidden set of stirrups, and a secret bio-hazard bag to catch all the ucky stuff that can be revealed at a critical moment when ucky stuff emerges.) I hung out there for a while, trying to breathe through the contractions like the hypnobirthing playlist had told me to. The breathing wasn’t really a problem, I was pretty good at that. What surprised me, though, was the moaning. For some reason, I just needed to moan. I always had great scorn for the women on TV who scream and moan through labor. How fake, I thought. Such Hollywood hysterics must have just been for dramatic effect, and so completely manufactured and false. Well, apparently, I was bucking for a part on some dumb sitcom where childbirth is both a ploy to resuscitate bad ratings and a tired comic foil, because I was a moaner. Each contraction required some heavy-duty Ooh-ing and Aahh-ing.

After a while of this, I was really wishing for my iPod, if for nothing else than to drown out my own damned moaning. Fortunately, Spousal Unit had brought his, so he hooked me up with Patrick O'Brian Which did pretty much the same thing as Hypnobirthing because I often listen to that before bed as well. So, the nice voice of Patrick Tull discussing rigging of the mainsails and midshipmen crawling through the lubber’s hole helped calm me down and distract me from the pain. Our doula later said that I had to be the only person she had ever encountered who had listened to an account of the historical British Royal Navy to relax while giving birth. It did lend a slight nautical air to the whole proceeding. Which led us to the Tub.

At this point in the labor, the sun had come up, it was morning, and I'd been at it at the hospital for at least 5 hours. The weird thing was that my legs were shaking so badly, SU and C had to take turns holding onto them to keep them still. So, C suggested she see if The Tub was available because she thought the warm water might help calm my shakes, as well has help labor progress. The Tub was the way the Hospital could market itself as supporting hippy-dippy birthing experiences. It was a very nice jacuzzi tub that they showed everybody on the tour as if to say, "See, we aren't REALLY a scary medical facility, but just a cleaner and more posh substitute for your bathtub at home!" But, the trick to The Tub was there was only one of them. So, you had to get it on a first-come-first-serve basis. Apparently, they didn't want a WWW-Smackdown between laboring women in the hallway outside of the tub fighting over who needed the jacuzzi more in their critical moments of labor...

I thought for sure that with 14 other women there it would be completely occupied. But, nope. The Tub was empty – and all mine! Whopee! So, we wheeled me down the hallway and I stripped and got into The Tub. It was heavenly. Definitely more posh than my filthy, ancient cast-iron tub at home. It was so warm, and so relaxing for a few minutes I forgot why I was there. Then, ouch, contraction. Right, that's what was happening -- I was in LABOR. As I hung out in The Tub, the contractions started to get much more intense, and SU and C took turns pouring warm water over my belly when they happened, and giving me ice chips and cold washcloths after they were over. SU took the chance at this point to go get a little breakfast. (He has since been touting the Hospital cafeteria as the best place in town for breakfast. I don't know if it was the actual quality of the toast, eggs and bacon that he got or the $1.50 price tag that turned him on so much, but so far I've resisted taking a special trip to the Hospital just for breakfast, as he keeps urging.)

After about an hour or so in The Tub, the contractions became so intense I decided I needed to get out. Back to the birthing room we went, where I proceeded to yak. Appropriate, really, since I was sick the whole pregnancy. The good thing was I had brought my own bucket to yak into. A few weeks before, I was expressing anxiety to C about having to have great aim at this moment of severe crisis while birthing. I mean, have you seen the size of those little tiny bedpan/barf catcher kidney-shaped thingeys at the hospital? They're like 2 inches long and an inch wide. You must be a seriously precise puker to manage to hit those things. For some reason, before labor I was really obsessed about having to have such great aim with my vomit, which I knew I would not have and so would wind up upchucking onto the floor or bed or Spousal Unit. To solve this problem, C had suggested that I bring my own bucket to the hospital so that I could stop worrying about where I was going to puke. Fortunately, I took this advice. So, when I felt the barf a-coming, I just said "Bucket!" and Spousal Unit grabbed our nice white plastic Berry Farm bucket that we purchased the last time we went berry-picking and I puked into that. It was a nice good size for catching the puke, no aim needed. The only downside? I'm not sure I'll ever use it for picking berries again.

Fairly soon after this puking episode, I decided I needed the Drugs. Things were getting pretty intense (read PAINFUL), and I figured I had quite a while yet to go. I mean, first labors are long, right? It was about 9 am and I figured I had the whole rest of the day and night to go. Especially since my water hadn't broke yet. I was pretty sure I couldn't handle the level of pain I was in for another 10 or 12 hours. Spousal Unit, in his drive to get us a natural childbirth, sneaky bastard, asked if I could handle 10 more contractions. I decided that I could, so we worked on counting those down, saying goodbye to each contraction as they passed, glad never to have to do That Exact Contraction ever again. After those 10 went by, we sent for the doctor. Of course, by the time the doctor appeared about another 15 contractions had gone by. I was pretty anxious and in inreasing pain. To ease this, we thought we'd try a different position to labor in -- I had been pretty comfortable on my back in the bed. But, we thought maybe a different position would help. Oho, how wrong we were. I tried Child's Pose from yoga, where basically, you get on your hands and knees with your ass in the air. This was fun for me at this moment because I was totally and completely naked (somewhere along the way that I can’t remember, I lost both the Unit Family Reunion tee-shirt and the hospital gown.) So, there I was, mooning the ceiling when the next contraction hit. It was the most incredible awful pain I had ever experienced in my whole life. I thought I was being ripped in two. I started to scream. And Scream and Scream. I couldn't stop screaming until the contraction was over. It was beyond horrible. So, not a good position, Child's Pose.

At this auspicious moment, the Doctor came in and started poking around to see how things were going down there and to see if I was progressing enough to get the drugs. Not good timing. But, she didn't seem phased at all that her first introduction to me was to my hind end, or that I was screaming like a banshee. I suppose if you're an OB both are par for the course. Anyway, as she looked up in there, my water broke. At which point, the doctor said, "Well, you could have an intrathecal (a short-duration epidural), but really, Stewgad, you're 9+ centimeters dilated and fully effaced. It's time to start pushing. Do you feel like pushing?"

I thought about this for a moment and quickly decided that I had never felt like doing anything less in my whole entire life. Nope. No way, No How. Oh, how I did NOT feel like pushing. I knew what would happen if I did, and it didn't sound any more appealing in that moment between intensely painful contractions (still scream-inducing despite the return to my back) than it had for the entire 10 months before that moment. But, everyone else in the room seemed to think it was the thing to do and they were so earnest about encouraging me to do it. Plus, C told me I had to in a very stern voice. So, when the next contraction rolled around, I pushed. And screamed my fucking head off. I could push 3 times per contraction, but the doctor seemed to want four pushes per contraction. This made me a bit resentful, but since I was kind of in the middle of something at the moment, I couldn't really tell her how I was feeling. Especially because she wasn't actually my doctor. Which is funny because I secretly really wanted my doctor to be a woman, but I didn't like the practice that she worked for. (there are only 3 OB practices in town.) So, for 9+ months, I saw my male doctor and kinda sorta hoped that when the time came, he wouldn't be around and I'd get to have a woman. So, despite the fact that I wanted to tell her that she could take that last 4th push that she seemed to want so badly the next time I had a contraction and put it into HER hind end, I thought better of it since I was really glad she was there.

Fortunately, I got a bit of a break between contractions at this point. They were coming with great regularity every 3 minutes, and every 4th contraction was kind of a faker, less intense and less push-worthy. But when the real ones came around, I'd launch back into my screaming and pushing. I did wonder if I was terrifying all the other poor women on the floor with my screams, and in the break period between contractions I would think rationally that I probably shouldn't be screaming so loudly. But, then another contraction would hit and I'd be back at it, shrieking at the top of my lungs. I swear, I couldn’t help it and I needed to do it. And to do it loudly. It was very primal.

By this time, I could feel the baby moving down into what is euphemistically called "the birth canal," but which was really my vagina. I could also feel it getting kind of sucked back up at the end of the contraction. And then, I had a bit of a miracle. In the midst of the blinding pain and heinously loud screams (could someone please tell that crazy woman to shut up?) I had a memory -- a brain wave -- a brilliant thought. A few weeks before, my friend M, who had had 2 kids, told me that when the baby was moving down and you were pushing, that you should engage your muscles a little bit in between contractions to keep the baby in place, so that you don't have to push it out the whole way every time. I couldn't really believe that I remembered that critical piece of information at the exact right moment, but I did. So, the next contraction that came around I did what she had suggested, and kind of held the baby in place. It was weird, but after that, the doctor was really encouraging, and said just a few more should do it. She asked if I wanted to feel the baby's head - and I did, but didn't really think much of it – kind of hard and firm, and in the way of my getting out of pain. I don't know, maybe I was too out of it to appreciate that a human head was coming out of my yoohoo.

As I re-read this last paragraph, it seems as if I was alone in this. Of course, I wasn't. Spousal Unit was holding onto my right leg and C was holding on to my left one, but it really was kind of an internal, alone type process. I mean, I was the only one pushing. And the only one screaming for that matter. I think that SU and Christine were both saying nice, encouraging stuff, but I don’t really remember.

Anyway, the doctor was right. When each contraction ended and I stopped the screaming, I held on a bit with my muscles, and I could feel the baby moving farther out as I pushed. At which point I experienced what the books call "a ring of fire." Which is essentially when the baby's head rips you open because it is too big for your coochie. I think I said something like, "ring of fire, my ass!!" Which got everybody chuckling. I think what I meant was "fire? VOLCANO is more like it. MAGMA, or something even more dramatic and hot and horrible than fire. But, the next contraction hit and I pushed like a motherfucker right through that MAGMA of pain and burning and tearing and then the head came out. Oh, my god, did that hurt. And then the rest of the baby’s body just slipped out, and instantly I felt more relieved than I have ever felt in my whole entire life. It was over. That thing I had been dreading my whole life, the thing I was so afraid of, and the thing that I wasn't sure I could survive -- childbirth -- was over. I was done. It was heavenly.

AND, to boot, I got this beautiful baby. Between emerging from my vagina and getting as far as my belly button, she started screaming on her own. She was kind of blue-ish, and had some gunk on her head and body, but by the time she got to rest on my breast, she calmed down. I said, "Hi Gadlet, I'm your Mama," while Spousal Unit cut her cord. She was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. Well, OK, maybe she did look a bit like my 60-year-old Dad, and maybe she did poop some black tarry gunk onto me while she was hanging out on my chest, and she was kind of scrawny, but she had these big, bright eyes and pouty little Angelina Jolie lips. Spousal Unit cried, but I was too distracted by the doctor, who wouldn't leave me alone yet. There was the whole placenta thing to expel, and may I say, ew. Slimy. And then she had to stitch me up. There were “second degree lacerations,” which I think sound worse than it was, but still sounds pretty bad. I managed not to scream through this part of it, but it was only because I was holding the Gadlet and I didn't want to scare her. And, besides, my throat was so sore and raw from the earlier screaming, I didn't have much voice left. (FYI, I still haven't checked things out down there too carefully. I'm just too terrified. I'm desperately afraid of finding that I’ve now got a Frankenpussy. {Thanks to Nadine for the term, which is too freaking funny given the patched-up and stitched up state of my poor vagina!}) Anyway, enough about my private parts.

Back to the baby. They let me hold her for about 45 minutes or an hour and then they started the process of cleaning her up, etc. Oh, yeah, and then they let Spousal Unit hold her. He and the nurse put her under his shirt so she could have skin-to-skin contact with him too. He was so moved. It was very sweet.

The great thing about a natural childbirth, planned or not, is that everyone thinks you're a hero -- starting with the doctor. She and the nurses were both just raving about how great I was at giving birth, and how wonderful it was to see both me and the Gadlet so alert and awake, since most of the moms and babies she sees are tranked up and groggy. So, I totally felt like the biggest Bad-Ass ever for having done it drug-free. I was totally high on the praise and felt gorgeous and powerful and insanely perfect even though I smelled like raw meat and looked like hell.

The doctor also said that I should be careful, because my next baby (HA!) will probably be born in the elevator, this labor was so fast. Start to finish it was 10.5 hours. Far less time than I had feared. Far less time than I thought was even possible for a first birth.

If I had been really and truly honest with those crazy people who had asked me what kind of birth I wanted, I probably would have said this: I want a short labor, with contractions that let me rest between them. I want some time in the bathtub because water is soothing to me. I’d like to feel safe and secure and I’d like to feel like I could handle what was happening to me. I’d like a woman doctor, and a supportive hospital that didn’t push the drugs if I didn’t want them. I’d like a natural childbirth if I can do it, and I’d like to not be too damaged afterwards to enjoy the baby and Spousal Unit as we start our new family. If I had been really honest, I would have confessed my deep secret desire to have a girl, and owned up to a petty wish that she not be too ugly or covered with funky birthmarks. Oh, and, I would have told them that I’d like that little girl to be born on 09-08-07 because it would be the coolest birthday ever.

I know in a deep and fundamental way that all children are miracles – and that is certainly true of the Gadlet – I mean, heck, I cooked her up inside my very own body and then used that body to get her out into the world. And now she does things like coo and pee and notice stuff and nurse. Even if she’s now going bald and has acne and so looks like a strange hybrid 85-year-old teenager, she’s absolutely miraculous. But, I’m not talking about the baby here as the miracle. That her birth was precisely what I would have asked for, even down to the smallest detail, if someone let me order up a birth experience on a platter (that is if I couldn't have the Star Trek Beam-It-Out Birth), well, that seems pretty damned miraculous to me.


At 12:59 PM Nik said...

Wow wow wow. Big tears. Great birth story. Shall I ever give birth again, I'll bring my own bucket.
A month old yesterday! Happy birthday Gadlet. Tell you mom thanks for not making us wait too long for part 2.

At 1:00 PM Julep said...

What a great story....it was touching, brutally honest, and positively hilarious! Congratulations.

At 4:49 PM Lex said...

So moving .... I'm almost in tears. I don't think I have it in me for a natural birth, but I'm damned impressed.

At 8:51 PM zelda said...

By this time, I could feel the baby moving down into what is euphemistically called "the birth canal," but which was really my vagina.

Best line.

Wow, I'm here crying. beautiful post! you're the best! :)

At 11:25 PM AcadeMama said...

Laughing out loud and crying at the same time!!! I simply must find a space for "Frankenpussy" in my current vocabulary!!

If you think a 10.5 hour labor is short, you should've seen the nurses when my first - almost 9 lbs. - was born in less than 5 hours, and that's *with* an hour of resting. Those nurses hated me!

Great birth story! It reminds me that I could read good birth stories forever and never get tired of them :)

At 11:59 PM Suz said...

The best story... Intensely personal and honest yet absolutely universal. Ditto the tears and smiles! Thank you.

At 12:09 AM aqua said...

So scary and so beautiful at the same time! Thank you for this wonderful story.

At 7:46 PM What Now? said...

I loved reading this -- thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It was hilarious and beautiful.

At 9:58 AM Supadiscomama said...

Brilliant! You truly made me laugh out loud! Your story, of course, made me think of my own birthing experience, and, shockingly, makes me want to do it again :)

Congratulations on a positive birth experience and a truly perfect baby girl!

At 11:55 AM mom said...

Oh, wonderful, wonderful - hilarious. I laughed so hard again. This is just the weetest thing to read. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

I still wish I knew her real name, though - oh how I love names :-(

If you do ever get the urge to share - please email me at mom@outside-the-toybox.com :-)

She's beautiful and you ARE a bad-ass. Towanda!

At 3:41 PM scarbie doll said...

I can't believe how similar our birth stories were! You almost made me think about telling my husband to call off the vasectomy!

Gorgeous little girl -- congrats! Hope your Frankenpussy turns out alright!

At 7:08 PM RageyOne said...

What a great birthing story! Your daughter is precious and I hope you share this story (just as it is written) with her one day. Congrats again!

At 7:52 PM A said...

Delurking to say thanks! You took me back 29 years to the birth of my daughter - except this time it was hilarious (as well as sweet).

At 2:40 AM Mimi said...

Wow! What a great story and what a b-e-a-utiful baby you have. I laughed laughed laughed at this, because a lot of it really resembles my own birth story (sitting on the toilet not realizing I was in labour, for example).

If yer innerested, my birth story is in the June 2007 archive page on my blog.

Anyhow, I loved this. And -- Congratulations.

At 5:50 PM Stewgad said...

Thanks guys - Ya'll are the best readers ever!


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