Thursday, July 12

Zoey's birth story

Zoe & me the next day

As Baby's due date approached, friends and relatives kept asking me if I was nervous.

Labor? Nah. I felt pretty confident about it. I was shooting for an all-natural, no pain meds, breathe-through-it hippy birth.

I figured I had a few things going for me-- I'd continued to exercise pretty hard until about 7.5 months pregnant (if that makes any difference), and thought I had a pretty high pain tolerance. My mom said both of her (med-free) deliveries didn't really even hurt. Even my mom's mom said she almost slept through most of her contractions the second time around.

I'm telling you all this now so you can laugh at me later.

I woke up the morning of baby's due date feeling a little crampy, and ready to get this show on the road. Conveniently, my sister needed to move out of her second-story apartment that day. So I helped.

I even snapped at Jason & my parents a few times for trying to take boxes out of my hands... I wanted that baby OUT.

I put extra pepper flakes on my pizza at lunch. I thundered ran up my sister's stairs about ten extra times. I went for a hike in the woods with Jason (nothing like being far away from civilization to induce labor, eh?).

I went to bed disappointed. I woke up at 3AM to a contraction. It didn't hurt that bad-- just like my mom said.

Sure enough, they kept coming at about three minutes apart, getting increasingly uncomfortable. I woke Jason up, and we took our packed bags to the hospital.

They measured my dilation-- only 2 cm out of 10. I laid in a bed hooked up to monitors, and those contractions started to REALLY hurt. They felt like period cramps from hell.

I broke down in tears after about 2.5 hours at the hospital. They checked me again, and the trap door hadn't budged at all-- still 2cm. They said we should go back home.

I asked the nurse when we would know to come back. Her eyes widened as she emphasized, "The contractions will be DRAMATICALLY more intense."

I felt my chin start to quiver again.

About an hour after we went home, everything fizzled out and stopped. After I caught up on sleep, Jason suggested walking to get them going again. And I lost it. I sobbed into my hands that I didn't want to feel that pain again. I knew it had to come back. But I couldn't will myself into consciously trying to make it happen.

Contractions came back with a vengeance around midnight. This time, though, they were twelve minutes apart instead of three. I spent the time in between them scanning notes from our childbirth class, trying to figure out what "coping mechanisms" might help. It was all pretty laughable at this point. I was starting to feel sick to my stomach from the pain.

I started walking circles around our apartment to distract myself. I repeated the same route from about 3AM to 10AM; the downstairs neighbors must have thought someone had lost their mind. ...well, pretty much.

Around the time Jason woke up, the contractions were consistently five minutes apart, and definitely, officially "DRAMATICALLY more intense." He walked with me outside. At this point I couldn't make my legs work during contractions, so I'd stop to bury my head in his neck and try not to hyperventilate.

We went back to the hospital at 2pm. I didn't let them hook me up to the stupid monitors-- the nurse just checked me right away and I was at 4cm. Thank. GOD.

They filled up the bathtub in the delivery room, and I climbed in. With the warm water jets, a lime popsicle, and Jason reassuring me through every 60-second wave of pain, it was all bearable again.

Yeah, our hospital ROCKS.

But, of course, they kept getting stronger and stronger. Before I knew it, I had become a "moaner." I'm not sure why making noise helped; I'm not sure that I could have not made noise. My awkward walrus sounds started to distract me, so we came full circle to the day I found out I was pregnant-- I grabbed a towel and shoved my face into it.

Soon a contraction would start with a moan, and escalate into what Jason calls a towel-muffled "battle cry." He sat by my side through every one, repeating "it's okay, it's okay, just a few more seconds, it will fade away." And that's the only way I got through them-- one at a time, not thinking about the next one, just thinking about the next "break" and that it would come in a few seconds.

When the nurse checked me at 4:30, I was at 6cm. The nurse said she could feel baby's amniotic sac bulging into the birth canal (you know you weren't going to avoid hearing a few details like that). She offered to break the sac to help things along.

But to me, breaking my water meant two things:
I'd have to get out of the tub (infection risk).
DRAMATICALLY intense contractions would get DRAMATICALLY more intense.

No thanks.

Two hours of walrus moaning later, they checked me again.

...still six centimeters.


So I got out of the tub. I climbed into the bed. The doctor started poking around with a "crochet needle," and GUSH.

Thar she blew.

I squatted on an exercise ball, and Jason stood behind me for support (both mental support, and "don't-fall-backwards" support).

Contractions kept starting with a moan. Then they'd escalate to the throaty battle cry. At the sharp peaks of each pain wave, I heard myself making a new noise-- brief, high pitched shrieks. I wasn't doing this very gracefully.

Labor is a weird thing. I'd always heard women say, "I've never felt so strong." "I've never felt so empowered." "I can't believe what my body is capable of."

But for me, it felt like something that was happening to me. Not something that I was willfully doing. Not really anything I could take credit for.

During our birthing class, the instructor had emphasized that if you relax all your muscles through each contraction, it'll be more "productive" and help the process go more quickly. So I guess I can take credit for that-- it takes a lot of concentration to be in the worst pain of your life and try to stay somewhat limp.

After they broke my water, my memory gets pretty hazy.

Jason says my face got really pale, and had this look of childlike desperation-- like, "please make it stop." He says I was almost completely unaware of everything happening around me.

I do remember the moment that I felt something move. Like, move down towards the exit. I told Jason to get the nurse.

I somehow got onto the hospital bed, and here I distinctly remember the nurse being all, "WHOAAAA NELLY TIME TO GET THE DOCTOR."

I felt a strong urge to push, so I asked the nurse if I could. She said I should wait until the doctor got there (as she nervously started putting on latex gloves). I don't know why I listened to her, really-- why do you need someone with an MD to catch a baby?

So I didn't push. But it didn't matter. My body was getting this kiddo out all on its own. I felt her head get lower and lower, until thirty minutes later I experienced the unmistakable burning sensation of a baby head squeezing out of my body.

Pretty rad, actually.

The doctor (who had shown up at some point, apparently) helped ease baby's shoulders out, and the rest was just a giant feeling of relief.

They dried our daughter off in about ten seconds flat and put her on my chest.

And, finally, it was no longer a theoretical idea in my mind that this pregnancy was going to end with a baby. There she was. She was amazing. Everything about her was so small, and so alive. I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that it had been her in there all along.

I felt her little feet and laughed with recognition-- those were definitely the same small, pointy heels that I'd been feeling kick through my belly for the past few months.

"I know, sweetie, we've had a crazy day too."
Her eyes were the most incredible part. They were bright, shiny, and so... awake. Every time I looked at them I felt this almost physical "smack" to my brain. It was unmistakeable that there was a real little soul behind her sparkling eyes. A unique person whose entire life was starting in those few minutes.

Jason and I looked at her, and she looked back at us. We told her we loved her. We sat in this happy trance for forty-five minutes. Then we switched her over to Jason's chest so she could bond with him as well.

(Two weeks later, her laying on his chest is still my favorite sight in the whole wide world.)

* * *
For the rest of that evening, I remember thinking, "There is NO WAY I'll ever do that without pain meds again."

But two weeks later, "mommy amnesia" is setting in and it's getting increasingly difficult to remember what it all felt like. I guess this phenomenon is how nature gets away with women ever having sex again after their first childbirth experience. So, maybe next time, I'll try to be more prepared. I'll look into "hypnobirthing" or something. But I'll definitely keep that epidural option open.

(Plus, if you can no longer remember the pain a week later, does it matter if it hurts or not at the time? Kind of like a "tree falling in the forest" paradox...)

So, there you have it. That's what delivering a baby was like for me, for those of you who wanted to know. It was really, really hard. It was really, really awesome. It will always be one of the most incredible days of my life. We're so glad she's here.


Laura said...

Congrats again, thanks for sharing. Keeping it real without totally scaring the bejesus out of us.


Cherri Porter said...

Labor and birth--especially our first--have a way of surprising us. I'm so glad you were able to have a healthy and med-free delivery.

Enjoy these.

Foxygen said...

You made this stone-cold lady all teary. Congratulations. Beautiful.

Lacey said...

Beautiful story & beautiful baby (and family!)

Emma @ She Got Married said...

Oh. My. Baby. You had one while I was gone! I cannot believe this! I actually teared up, I know that's weird because I do not know you, but this was just so exciting to read. I feel like I'm going to deal with labor the exact same way. I feel like I think I'll be able to be tough and in control..but the way you described it as happening 'to you' seems more like what my reality will be. But HOLY SMOKES. A BABY. Congratulations, that's pretty amazing. I felt like it was just yesterday I was chuckling over your fantasy fur baby booties. Alright, let me get ahold of myself. Well anyway- she's pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing this story.

Caitlin said...

I think I'm the opposite of you - I expect childbirth to be singularly the most horrific experience of my life. I half expect my vagina to literally explode. Haha, I'm such a pessimistic weirdo.

Another interesting thing: whenever I read about birth stories, my uterus starts to ache, despite never having gotten pregnant or giving birth.

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME AND MY FEAR OF PREGNANCY AND BIRTH. I'm so excited for you, April, and she could not be more beautiful :) So excited to hear more about your journey through motherhood!

Kelli Hale said...

Thank you so much for sharing this!! I have been on the fence about a natural birth ever since I started researching the various epidural cocktails. Turns out I'm allergic or potentially allergic to pretty much all of them. (a lovely thing to find out at 32 weeks pregnant!) I haven't really been too concerned with it, because I mean people have been having babies without medical intervention for aeons, but reading your story just made it so much more real. It was super inspiring, and a great encouragement. Thanks again!

Lozzz123 said...

Hmmm that's a really interesting thought, does it really matter that it was painful if you don't remember it later? Like some other commenters I've been a bit nervous about considering a natural birth (should I get a sneaky baby of my own), but I like your take on it.

Also - awwww. Seriously sweet pictures, she's just lovely :)

Elle said...

I just sat with my legs crossed for most of that. With a new baby in our family I have been all KNOCK ME UP MISTER to the boy, but now I ain't so sure. You should maybe think about speaking to teenage girls about contraception. Zoey is a doll and so are you. Congratulations again. Love Elle xo

Kristie said...

I feel like I made the same comment on your last two posts, but I maintain my position. Pregnancy: still freaky. I had a weird pregnancy dream the other night (prior to reading this) which has only served to further convince me of this fact. I mean, I guess it doesn't help that all (two) of the pregnancy dreams I've ever had involved me giving birth to kittens or babies that could shape-shift into kittens. I bet that little tidbit does not even surprise you.

ANYWAAAAY enough embarrassing confessions. I'm so happy y'all made it through P-Day happy and healthy in the end! Congrats congrats congrats thank goodness and welcome to the world Zoey!!

Kelley @ Kelley Maria said...

Welp, your story gave me a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes, a laugh or too and a few freaked out "eeks!"

Wow. I noticed myself reading this ever so slowly and carefully as if I was picturing / feeling the whole experience myself. Childbirth definitely freaks me out, but my mom (who gave birth naturally, twice) always refers to it as "magical" so I want to give birth naturally as well. Reading this made me nervous to give birth naturally (because i know from our track days you are very mentally and physically strong), but it also gave me the encouragement that I can still try and do it.

Thanks for sharing your birth story, April. You 3 make a beautiful family!

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Unknown said...

This is WAY late, but congratulations, my friend! Great birth story. You told it well, too. You're a tough one. :)

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Faith D. said...

Aww! That was beautiful. I didn't have med-free. With two 9lbs boys who decided to each come out breach, I definitely had to have the meds. But I remember that feeling when you first hold that tiny little body in your arms, thinking, yep those are the elbows that kept my bladder going! It's a wonderful feeling. Congratulations on your newest addition.

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