there could be a really good excuse for this. it could be something like, "it was just such a magical and intimate experience for me as a mother that i just felt like it was too sacred to write online about." but in truth, it's just because i'm really lazy and get intimidated by long narrative posts, and moreover i was pretty confident i could get jesse to write it for both of us.
but the more i think about it the more i realize that i need to write out my own version of judah's birth. and i am guessing that once i have gone through childbirth two times, sorting out one story from the other could get confusing. especially since they're only like 6 days apart. okay, 17.5 months, but man it feels closer.
here is judah's birth as told by jesse. he did a great journalistic job of reporting and documenting the facts and timeline of what happened as well as expressing his feelings as things unfolded. jesse also had the advantage of experiencing zero contractions during labor and was a bit more clear-headed throughout the process. i am so thankful to him for taking all the time it took to write down his beautiful perspective of the birth and i love reading it, but it is not the same story that i have in my head. he was not the one in the stirrups. only i can tell that story.
so here is my version. be forewarned, i am writing this selfishly so that i can remember all the details years from now; i am not considering the audience or that they might be eating lunch as they read this. telling it could get messy...living it sure was. if you are my dad or squeamish like godfather elliot, you might want to skip. i did not censor.
sunday, may 24th was the day before memorial day. i was 38 weeks and 6 days pregnant. jesse was at church all morning and i decided to sleep in rather than joining him since we had been out late at a braves game and party the night before. very. good. decision. it would be the last night of sleep i would get for about 4 months. he got home around 1 pm and we got ready to go to my grandpa's house for a memorial weekend lunch with my family and my cousins and aunt and uncle.
i don't know how many times i heard during pregnancy that labor rarely starts like it does in the movies. A: the onset of labor starts with water breaking only about 15% of the time, and B: in these 15% situations, it's not typically a tsunami gush splashdown like is sometimes depicted onscreen. many of the 15% water-breaking women say that they thought they had peed their pants when really their water had broken. so i was not really expecting my water to break first before contractions. and if it did, i knew it might not be obvious and might feel like any of the gobs of times that i had peed my pants a bit in late pregnancy. i was ready.
i am in the bathroom getting dressed and ready to head to fred's, and i am like, crap, i just peed a little bit. so i go check things out in the underoo situation, and yup, it looks like i let loose a little thimbleful of pee (which was about standard capacity by that point in the bladder department). so i switch underwear and go back in the bathroom to do my makeup. i am standing there and all of a sudden: son of a...my freaking shorts are wet again. i may not have the best bladder control, but i almost always am at least cognizant of the fact that i am losing control. not this time. i felt nothing.
so i am standing in the bathroom with my pants pulled down trying to check the damage and consciously pinching my urethra so no more magic pee that i don't even feel comes out, and while i am sitting there, more stuff starts leaking. that's when i knew.
the feeling was the exact same one that i got while waiting at the very back of the wedding procession line with my dad right before walking out to get married. it's this pivotal life moment that i have waited so impatiently for, and counted down the seconds until, and imagined and pictured and yearned after for months and years, and all of a sudden: it's here, it's right now. it's this very moment. and, OH HOLY SHIT- i am so not ready for this. makeitstop.
i had considered many times that i would come up with some really cute way to tell jesse i was in labor. that i would wait a bit and act all nonchalant and then say something like, "oh you can't go play frisbee tomorrow, you've already got plans; it's judah's birthday." ha. yeah right. with my pants still down, i waddled into the bedroom and said, "um, jesse, i think my water just broke." seeing his amazingly excited, yet composed and supportive reaction is what made me ready and not so terrified.
we called our birth teacher who said it could just be a high tear up on the top of the bag of water that might seal itself back up and to just keep going about our business but to drink a lot of water and to maybe get some red raspberry leaf tea to start the contractions. we all agreed to definitely NOT call my doctor because we didn't want them knowing how long my water had been broken because they would put me on antibiotics after 18 hours and start talking induction and other interventions that we didn't want. medical folk tend to get antsy and nervous when the sterile environment of the amniotic sac is exposed for longer than 12 hours. hippie birth teachers say you're fine and can go 2 weeks. we were somewhere in the middle.
so grabbed a pad and we headed out to fred's. not the dramatic moment i had pictured. when we got there we told everyone what was going on and my aunt (whom i adore) kind of freaked out. she was a pediatric nurse forever and ever and is kind of old school and not as much down with the natural thing too much. she was worried about a prolapsed cord (picture the cord trying to flush out with the water and tightening around the baby's neck). it was kind of hard standing up to this kind of pressure when it seemed like she was for judah's safety and i was against it. thank god for 13 weeks of birth classes that had etched into my head that birth is most often a safe, natural process that my body can handle. while we were there i had a few contractions that were bigger than all my braxton hicks ones. but not bad at all.
we headed home, but first wanted to get the tea so that we could try to tempt labor to really get going. we finally found an open health food store in the ghetto that smelled so much like a sex shop. when we got home jesse made a huge pitcher of it and i started chugging. i had his iphone with its special contraction timer and i told jesse to go take a nap. he was exhausted from being out so late and then up so early for church and i knew i would need him at his best. it was about 6 or 7pm. just like our entire last few months before judah, i was SOOOOOOOO bored. i watched star wars, some NBA playoff games and worked on a puzzle that we had bought in our pre-baby pathetic boredom desperation. the contractions were about 10 minutes apart and only distractingly painful. i tried to take a nap with jesse but couldn't sleep due to excitement and discomfort.
i walked around the house a lot and made sure we had everything ready to go and in the car. i bounced on the labor ball, drank tons of tea and did my birth visualization techniques. all this time i was still leaking. at about 10 pm things were getting a bit more close together and intense so i woke up jesse. he was awesome and laid with me during the contractions and talked to me and made me laugh in between. our plan for when to head to the hospital was when contractions were 5 minutes apart AND one minute long AND averaged these times for about an hour. the iphone was on calculation duty. another sign of when it's time to go is that your husband tries to take a picture of you and you no longer smile for it. this signals that it's business time usually. we forgot this one and didn't even get any good smiling ones. dangit. my contractions were about 30 seconds long and 6 or 7 minutes apart. plus i was still 100% my charming self. not ready to go yet.
the hours crept by and jesse would do foot or hand massage during the contractions because we found out that that was the most helpful of the techniques we had learned in birth class. i had thought i would like a few of the other techniques better, but things changed when labor got going and the hand and foot massage was awesome. we were still in bed, me on my towels and puppy pads-- since water had started to sporadically gush--and in my designated bradley birthing position and jesse laying with me coaching me through each one.
i really can't even believe how many hours went by without sleep or occupation. i can tell you i didn't feel bored. the ebb and flow of contractions really ate up the time. at around 2 or 3 am i didn't want to be in bed any more. the contractions were getting pretty painful and i wanted to try walking around in between them and then standing through them. i found that leaning up against the wall with my head resting on my arms was the best for me. at this point we were pretty close to 5 minutes apart and they were about 45-50 seconds long. so i kept walking and leaning for about and hour more and at around 4 am on memorial day morning, we decided that it was time to go.
you never realize how uncomfortable getting into or sitting in a car is until you try to do it while having contractions. ugh. luckily the roads were deserted since it was so early on a holiday and every time a contraction would hit we would pull over and i would get out and stand and lean against the car. i remember being afraid that a deer would trample me while i was contracting. 15 miles, 35 minutes and 7 or 8 mega-contractions later we got to the hospital. while this was the most dramatic moment of my little life story, the folks at the hospital had seen it before and weren't as impressed with me as they should have been. i got to walk and contract myself up to the L&D floor and check in.
despite the LOADS of pre-registering that i did, i still had to fill out paperwork. to L&D charge nurses, labor is not an excuse worthy of getting you out of paperwork. they were merciless and made me stand there and get everything completed. we gave them our birthplan and told them we wanted to just go natural as long as possible and not be offered medicine or intervention of any kind unless judah or i was in danger.
then they asked me what time my water broke. uh-oh. it was now 5 am and my water had broken at 1 pm the previous day. 16 hours. we couldn't lie, but so so so didn't want to be on anybody's radar as having a clock ticking down over our heads to intervention time. so i said, "it broke at one..." and the nurse goes, "okay, so, four hours ago." sure why not. shwew. that was close.
so i get into the bed and meet our sweet little nurse. i get the hospital gown, mesh panties, and puppy pad treatment that really glam-ify childbirth. our nurse was super nice and made me feel very welcomed and cared for. she tells us dr. T is on call which was not the best news we had heard since out of the 4 OB's in my practice she was probably #3 on our list. she comes in to "check me" for the first time at about 6 am.
dear sweet, moses. i had been checked at OB appointments in the final weeks of pregnancy and i have had routine gyno visits. this was another level. i was wondering what my tonsils had to do with labor as she reached up to her armpit to assess my situation. then i feel the tsunami. i don't don't how she wasn't soaked because pretty much the entire rest of my water broke all up on her. it was very painful having my cervix manhandled. finally she gets out of dodge and give us the much-awaited stats: 3-4 cm dilated. water definitely broken. okay. so that was good. i wasn't expecting to be so lucky as to have gotten all the way to a 7 or 8 at home and i was just hoping to avoid the disappointment of a 1 or 2 PLUS broken water that i know would have made me a prime candidate for induction. she said she'd let us labor and see how things progressed.
at about 7, just as the sun was rising our nurse came in and said that she was off duty and a new nurse would be taking over. enter adrienne. i see this buff little chick come in and introduce herself in a super self-assured "i definitely know what i am doing" kind of way. i have got to say, i was thinking i was NOT going to like her. i didn't really have a reason, that was just a snap judgement and i wanted my sweet harmless little nurse back because i was pretty sure i could push her around, but adrienne did NOT give off such a wilting flower vibe. she says, "so i hear you want to go au naturale?" and i am like, shit, please don't try to talk me out of it right now or doubt me in any way. and then says, "awesome, i had my 2 kids naturally and you can totally do it." while that did make me feel a little better, it also made me be like, great, now i have to do it because she did it and i am the most competitive person alive and i can't let her be tougher than me or think i am a sissy.
adrienne tells us that dr. T is going off call as well and tell us that dr. beckford (who i affectionately refer to as "t-bex" because her first name is tanya) is on call now. dr. beckford, also known as #4 preference for our delivering OB. who always tried to tell me of the virtues of epidurals during my OB visits. oh man. i am kind of bummed because the least natural-birth-sympathetic OB is my doctor and because i have GI Jane/Jada Pinkett Smith as HawthoRN as my nurse. i didn't dispair though because i had jesse and he was all that i really needed to get through this entire thing. and i also had my body which had been designed especially for this challenge. i also would turn out to ADORE both adrienne and t-bex, proving again what a great sense of humor god has.
so the morning wears on and i get all the way to 6 cm by 11am. i walked around the room and went through contractions standing up. they were getting really intense but my breathing and relaxation were totally making them survivable. i was able to poop at some point which made me totally happy because it meant i wouldn't poop live and in color with an audience on the delivery table later on. around this time i also got completely freaked out by the idea of being a parent. i was seriously like, we can't do this, i just want to go back to being free and easy newlyweds when it's just two adults who get to do whatever they want all the time and not be terrorized by a baby. please, jesse, can we leave and forget all about this? he sweetly informed me that it was too late and after considering a mad mesh-panty-clad dash to the parking lot, i gave up and decided he was right.
at noon t-bex and adrienne came in to check me again and i was still at 6 cm. since we were nearing the 12 hour mark (so they thought...it was really almost at 24) she wanted to talk about pitocin to speed up labor and make me dilate faster. i was so against this (read jesse's story for why). t-bex really wanted it. i asked them to give me until 1pm to see if i progressed before really pushing it on me. they said okay. by this time my parents were at the hospital and getting regular updates from jesse. my mom had been pretty leery of the natural birth thing so i had jesse bring them back to see that everything was fine. they got to see one contraction while they were there. i just laid limp in bed and breathed really slow and easy while jesse rubbed my hand and talked me over the hump. my mom looked terrified but reassured that i wasn't being tortured.
so the moment of truth came at 1pm. i got cervically assaulted again only to find out i was still right at 6 cm. by this point i had been awake for 27 hours and in serious labor for the past 17 or so. i was really tired. t-bex left and i talked to adrienne about pitocin and how much i didn't want to do it. she said she totally understood but that she was concerned that if we went hours longer i might be too exhausted to get through the end stages before pushing and might be more prone to give up and ask for an epidural. or that i might even be too tired to push and have to get a c-section. but she said the longer we went, the more aggressive t-bex would have to be about interventions that i seriously wanted to avoid.
a cool thing that happened when adrienne checked me then was when she told us, "your baby has hair." since my water was broken she was touching judah's head. holy moly, that made things very real. there is a baby in there with hair who is waiting to come out and meet me.
so all of that considered, a little before 2pm i got the smallest allowable dose of pitocin in my IV. this now put an end to walking around freely since judah had to be monitored and i had to be on the IV.
you guys, there aren't really words for how much of a game changer this was. i don't know if i am super sensitive to pitocin or if i was already on the verge of speeding up and it just threw me into overdrive or if maybe i was having a super easy labor before and didn't know it.
the first contraction hit me and my entire universe came crashing down. the pain was so intense and so consuming that i literally couldn't think. there was no relaxing or breathing through it or staying on top or ahead of the contraction. i was in the ocean getting the living hell pummeled out of me by thundering waves of pain and couldn't think past just getting enough air to survive. i couldn't hear anything jesse was saying or coaching me on, my body was so tense and i was holding my breath with the pain of it all.
the first one passed and i just wanted to die. i had to go from 6cm all the way to 10cm like this? i wanted to try standing up right by the monitor and my IV pole i was attached to and adrienne came in and helped me do that. since things were getting rougher she stayed through a few more contractions. at some point i decided to sit down on a stool and drink some orange juice. the next contraction hit and i went to stand up through it and i passed out from the pain. jesse caught me. the next contraction slammed me and i threw up the juice from the pain. i was now having raging back labor in addition to the front-feeling contractions i had been having all along. it was like being stabbed in the spine with an ice pick. jesse tried massage and i almost murdered him right then on contact. we tried an ice pack and it made it worse. nothing helped.
while i was up against this wall, losing hope, moaning and suffering beyond the limits of my imagination i kind of lost jesse. i think he got a little scared when i passed out and threw up and was kind of freaked out by how intense and out of control i had become so quickly. i also had probably yelled at him when something he was doing wasn't working and was being pretty mean. i am tearing up right now thinking of how much he loves me and how hard this must have been to him and how helpless he must have felt. especially as a card-carrying certified bradley-birth coach. we thought all we would need was each other.
but on the other side of me was adrienne. a virtual stranger. a nurse. a mom. a woman who had been through this fire twice herself. she was saying some really hard things to me. she was being firm and when i would say "i cannot do this" she would respond "yes you can, keight, you are in control, get back in control of this contraction." i think if jesse had said this to me i would have mike tyson-ed his ear off. but i just couldn't cuss out or scream at or ignore adrienne. maybe it was my inborn southern genteel manners that were still present somewhere underneath the rabid wookie that i had become, but i just could not tell her to please shut up and fuck off like i wanted to. so i listened. i found her voice while i was being dragged under and somehow it got me through. not gracefully, not with any kind of toughness, but it got me through those contractions whimpering and clinging to some shred of hope.
after this point adrienne offered me a shot of some kind of pain medicine. she said it wouldn't numb anything but it would take the edge off of the pain a little bit. ugh. i was so against any kind of pain medicine but i was also against death by torture so i said i would try to move to the bed for one contraction and see if that helped and if not i would take the shot. big mistake. getting back in a laying position made things even more painful. but by this point i couldn't move enough to get back out of bed to make it better. i took the shot.
y'all, i am still pretty sure that adrienne accidentally gave me a vitamin shot instead of painkillers because if that was "taking the edge off" i don't ever want to know what those damn edges might have been like. nothing changed. by this point the pitocin was turned off since it had very clearly done it's job in speeding up and moving along labor. the one hour i spent having pitocin contractions was about 100 times worse than all 18 hours before it combined. i will never have pitocin again. if they say i have to i will say, not before i get an epidural. it's just not within me to do that again, knowing now what it is like.
since i was already in the bed, adrienne decided to check me and see if the hour had brought any progress. as soon as she got in, she got right back out. i was at a 9. she went off to call t-bex so that she could come to the hospital in time for delivery.
i ask you, what's worse than a pitocin contraction? a pitocin contraction and feeling like you have to take a giant dump too. yup, the long-awaited pushing stage was upon me. a lot of bradley birthers described pushing as a kind of finish line. no longer are you sitting back and riding the contractions, but now you are able to ACT and do something to move your baby closer to your arms. some had even said that pushing wasn't nearly as painful as stage 2 labor and transition (the parts right before pushing). but i also knew i couldn't push until i was all the way at a 10 because i could mess up my cervix and make things harder for myself.
so adrienne came back in and jesse told her i was having the urge to push. she said to try to wait if i could so that t-bex would have time to get there. then about 27 people came in all at once. it is so funny how during pregnancy i worried about who would see my vag in the full stirrupy glory of labor and would be mortified by the thought. all the women i talked to said, trust me, you will NOT care when it is happening. they were so right. the neonatal nurse came it to set up judahs receiving area, a few more nurses came in and started prepping the room from a labor setup to a delivery setup, i think there was a male custodian there too for some reason and ross perot may have even made and appearance at some point. all through this process i am still having horrible pitocin contractions along with the heavy feeling in my butt of a human trying to escape me.
they turned on the special overhead lights for delivery which was essentially a spotlight in the ceiling pointed at my crotch. again, i didn't care. i was not putting any effort into pushing since t-bex wasn't there yet and i didn't think it was time. at some point i started kind of half-assed pushing because i thought i heard that i was close enough to start and i had learned that the pushing stage usually takes 1-2 hours so i wanted to get warmed up.
i remember after maybe 5 minutes of sort-of pushing hearing jesse be like, ok keep going, push hard. and i said, "i'm not really trying, it's not time to push for real yet," and looking down and asking adrienne if i was at 10 yet and had the full go ahead to push. she went to check me and said, "keight i am about two inches in and i am touching his head. push for real." i also recall adrienne and another nurse down in the action zone talking about who was going to "catch." the other girl was offering to do it and adrienne said something to the affect of, "hell no, this is so mine." at that point i realized things were really close to happening since they didn't think t-bex would be there in time to do the delivery herself.
i looked at jesse and he was so excited and encouraging. he said "he's almost here!" i was positively dying from the pain of contractions and the pushing urge, but i was ready. i pushed just like we had been taught.
remember how the ladies in the birthing videos and books described pushing as "not painful" compared to earlier labor because you are an active and athletic participant? those bitches lied. pushing a baby out of your vagina feels just like all the horrifying contractions beforehand with the added bonus of shitting a bowling ball that is covered in steel spikes and made of lava thrown into the mix.
that was the first real push. i get a break between contractions as jesse tells me he could see judah's head (dear lord, bleach jesse's eyeballs from having to see such a thing). here comes another one. yup, just as bad, except with this one, i don't get the relief of afterwards judah going back in a little bit. the first one i had pushed him out a bit but then he had gone back in a tiny bit, which gave some relief while i waited for the next contraction/push. i had discovered the ring of fire. this is where his head is like halfway out and i am just stretched to capacity. i decided not to wait for the next contraction, because HOLYFUCKGETTHISTHINGOUTOFMENOW is generally my point of view when i have a spiked lava ball hanging halfway out of my vagina.
most pregnant women are terrified of a common thing: tearing. this is just what is sounds like. whether it's because the baby is too big, or you don't give your body enough time to stretch like it can, the vagina rips while the baby comes out. this can range from superficial all the way to breaking through all of the tissue and muscle between your baby hole and your pooper. doesn't sound great, huh? this can be incredibly painful for recovery.
doctors will sometimes perform episiotomies to prevent tears by making a straight cut to provide some more room for the baby. since tears are less controlled they are harder for OB's to repair (re: not a straight line of stitching like an incision would be). and they are used to prevent the occasional upward tear. i wasn't afraid of tearing because we had learned that it supposedly doesn't hurt at all when it occurs because the skin is pulled so tightly anyway that you can't feel it (extend your thumb and index finger as far away from each other as they will go and pinch the webbing in between...it doesn't hurt by the same principle). but an upward tear scared the crap out of me. these tears can affect sex forever after and i think even mess up your pee hole too. yikes and no thanks.
but that fear and knowledge and resolve to be a patient pusher and give my body time was all in the cozy pain-free luxury of life spent NOT in labor. while i had judah there with just his forehead out i remember someone saying something like i needed to slow down that i was going to tear and i quite clearly remember thinking these words: "rip it to shreds like a paper bag, i don't give a shit since i'm never having sex again anyway, get him out of here!" so demure.
so that's exactly what happened. and the bitches that lied about pushing turned out to have not been lying about tearing. it didn't hurt at all. i felt a distinct pop-pop-pop and then relief. ahhh, it was all over. i was done. there was no more horrifying pain. i laid back on the pillow, exhausted.
that's when jesse says, "uh, honey, you still need to push his body out. " oops. poor little judah is just prairie-dogging it down there with his head out, wearing me like a turtleneck. i should probably do something about that.
so i bear down for my fourth total push. holy moly what a joke. baby bodies are miniscule compared to their monstrous un-tapered heads. it took all the effort of a fart after eating krystal to push his entire body out in one slippery go.
i delivered my son into the ready arms of adrienne. as she immediately handed him up to rest on my chest all i could say was, "i'm not pregnant anymore!" i wish i had said something more profound or touching to fit the moment, but i was pretty happy i was done with all that unpleasantness. and being not pregnant also meant having judah here finally
as i held my seconds old child while the nurses wiped him down and checked his breathing, guess who came in? t-bex. she was just in time to deliver...the placenta! i nursed judah (he was a champ from the very beginning) and then gave him to jesse. it was at this point that i realized something weird was going on. i was shaking violently and was freezing cold. i was so exhausted and dr. beckford had been doing something down there for a looooooong time.
then a dude walks in and introduces himself as the anesthesiologist. i was like, "crap, buddy, you're about 90 minutes late." turns out i had a crazy up and downward tear that was too tricky to sew up in the delivery room so i was being taken to an O.R.: awesome, the birth of a real life Vagemort. the doctor told me he was giving me a shot and it wouldn't put me under but it would make me not care what was happening but that i was so tired that i would probably essentially by knocked out by it. i told jesse to stay with judah the entire time so that he was never without one of us and i got wheeled out of the room that i became a mother in. i was so incredibly out of it. the operating room was like NASA, all white and bright and sterile and as they put my arms in these wonderful heated sleeve thingies (i was SO SO SO cold and shaking...i was probably in shock) i remember thinking that i was an astronaut being suited up for launch. i heard adrienne and t-bex there at my feet and then nothing else.
the next thing i remember i am waking up in a recovery area and adrienne is at the end of my bed filling out some paperwork. jesse is there beside me holding my newly swaddled son. it was the greatest thing to wake up to. i was covered in blood and so gross. i was exhausted and starving but in no pain or discomfort finally. one of the first things i said was, that was fun doing the natural birth, but i think next time i might see what an epidural is like. and adrienne says, well if you were going to get an epidural for one of them, it should have been the first because the second will be so much faster and easier. things that would have been good to know yesterday.
this picture has been on here like 10 times, but its a favorite. my fingernails have blood under them. i was fresh from battle
all things considered i am very happy with my childbirth experience. was it fun? no, but it was gratifying for the vast majority of it. did i feel like a failure for having taken pitocin and that damn imaginary painkiller shot? very much so since that wasn't what my goal had been. but i can honestly say that i will attempt to give birth to all of my children naturally; even after all that. it was so worth it. the part that was horrible had nothing to do with natural childbirth. those were unplanned medical interventions that we decided to accept given the circumstances and how we were progressing. the horribly painful parts of my story aren't a part of my natural childbirth experience; they are the not-so-natural things that we introduced and even still were totally worth it as a labor of love and are fairly comical to look back on. all the calm and peaceful hard work that i put in before the pitocin was my natural childbirth and it really was awesome doing it just me and jesse and judah. i wonder what pushing would be like without pitocin. maybe the lava bowling ball will be more like a downy cotton ball. here's hoping i get to find out in about 3 months!