Our labor began around 3AM on July 17th after feeling pretty sick to my stomach the night before. Your grandma, after walking around the dining hall following Oliver on his motorcycle with me, predicted that you were coming soon as I waddled and asked her if the pressure I was feeling was “normal.” The contractions were so mild and slow at the beginning. I wasn’t sure it was labor until many hours later. I mentioned them to your dad at some point in the night and then went into the other room so he and Oliver could try to sleep. I thought he would need his rest if this were the real thing. I laid in the room that we hope to be Oliver’s (and maybe yours) someday and slept in between the cramps. Things slowed down a bit as morning came and I was still unsure if this was it. Your dad went down to work and I spent the morning playing with Oliver and resting while your Grandma took him out and about for some fun. As the contractions became a bit stronger, I tried sitting in the bath, but it being the hottest day of our summer so far, couldn’t last long and went back into our bedroom with the air conditioner.
Around noon, I called your dad and asked him to come home. I knew it was the real thing and your grandma was concerned that I should think about going to the hospital soon. We spent the next few hours laboring in the bedroom. Oliver joined us for a bit because I so wanted to treasure this time with him. In consultation with our doula, Danielle, and our OB office, we decided to head to the hospital around 5PM. I felt like my contractions were coming stronger and faster, and the drive to the hospital was about an hour long.
It felt surreal as we drove there, your dad getting a little bit lost as he tried a different route to avoid traffic and me squirming in the seat, trying to get comfortable through contractions. When we finally arrived and got examined, I was only 1cm dilated and very discouraged. Having not labored with Oliver, I had no idea what active labor felt like. Not only did I have to dilate 9 more centimeters, but it seemed the contractions would get much more intense. I was not as prepared as I had hoped for this.
This is when Danielle began the birth mantra that helped me through the entire long labor. She helped me to see that we needed to trust my body and that it was working exactly the way it was intended to. So we did. Your dad stepped up in a major way and told the doctors that we were not going to be on the monitor continuously (despite their fear of me being a VBAC) and this made a world of difference as the monitor severely restricted my ability to move with the pain. We went with it. We walked and walked, we talked, drank water, and ate snacks. And when the exhaustion kicked in, we rested. All three of us catching some sleep between contractions, until I would leap up onto all fours to prepare for the next wave and Danielle and dad would snap into action, encouraging and supporting me.
I felt much of our labor in my hips and found great relief in leaning over during contractions and having your dad and Danielle press my hips. It was a transformative moment when Danielle coached me to work with the pain and to make low noises as opposed to tensing up when it came. I had not even realized until that moment that I was trying to escape instead of working with it to help you move down and to help me open up. And, finally, in the middle of that night, I went to the bathroom and there was a lot of blood. We were all so relieved to see this, as we knew things were heading in the right direction. Shortly after that, I felt my water break with a sudden and immensely relieving pop in the midst of a contraction. The trust we had been placing in this process, in my body, and in you was working, and even the doubting nurses and doctors, not too comfortable with a woman laboring naturally (and loudly) and working towards a VBAC, even seemed to trust us more as time went on.
From that point, things moved quickly. I was totally in laborland. I have to admit that I felt scared and did not cope quite as well with the pain as I had hoped I would. Not once did I consider asking for pain relief, but I do remember thinking that somebody might have to pull you out of me because there was no way I was going to be able to do it. I think that moment signaled to me that I was in transition – a great place to be as it meant you would join us soon. Every time I said I couldn’t do it, Danielle and your dad would tell me that I was doing it. I needed to hear this. And your dad kept saying, “picture him in your arms, he’s here in your arms” and that visual image really helped me through. It was also during this time that I physically felt your body move down through my pelvis. What an incredible, and indescribable, feeling that was. We were working together and doing exactly what we needed to do. I was so proud of you for the role you were playing.
Danielle must have noticed a change in me because she began asking if I felt like I needed to push. At some point she called the doctor in for a rather uncomfortable check, and the doctor confirmed that I was 10cm and could start pushing. With the next few contractions, I pushed harder than I ever thought I could. I was on my hands and knees and I had Danielle and your dad each on one side of my head encouraging me and cheering me on. While I had hoped to push more slowly and gently, the doctor was rushing me a bit. This probably accounted for a very short pushing stage, for which I’m grateful, but also probably for some discomfort healing afterwards, for which I am not so grateful. Pretty soon, I felt the “ring of fire” that everyone talks about and it was the most incredible feeling, because I knew your head was coming out. Danielle encouraged me to reach down and feel it, but I think I must have been scared. The rest of your body slipped out and you were born at 7:44am on July 18th. My relief was so great that I just stayed there, not moving, until somebody yelled for me to turn over and take my baby. I remember reading something a few weeks before you were born about that moment after a baby is born. It was an article, accompanied by a picture of a woman on her hands on knees, looking down at her baby on the bed beneath her. It discussed the idea that a women might benefit from just viewing her baby for a moment before having him or her placed skin-to-skin, as she took in all that had just happened. I completely and wholeheartedly identify with that idea, and think that if we have more children, I will plan that time into the birth.
Ezra, that moment a you joined us on this Earth, and were placed on my chest, will be etched into me and Who I Am forever. You were warm, and wet, and beautiful. You cried a little bit, and the nurses encouraged it, saying it would help clear all the fluid from your lungs. After that, you just snuggled close, alert, awake, and quiet. At one point, you spent a few minutes skin-to-skin with your dad too.
When you were ready, you nursed a little bit. I was finally able to let go of Danielle’s presence once you nursed and she left, returning her to her family at home. Her involvement in our birth was invaluable and I am so grateful for her and her gifts.