Initially, I was thinking that I’d segue into motherhood with a couple of journal entries that would sum up the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy and maybe a brief paragraph about the birth. Wow—was I wrong. Birth deserves its own chapter. In fact, I’m sure there could be several chapters devoted to it. I realize now why birth is one of those events that’s nearly impossible to define, and maybe that’s because no two birth experiences are the same.
And honestly, compared to giving birth, the weeks leading up to the big day were pretty uneventful, unworthy of journal entries—let’s just say, dilated a fingertip sums up those weeks. After my due date came and went, the Negative Nancy side of me was convinced that the worst was going to happen.
I’d be two weeks late…Then have to be induced…My body wouldn’t have enough time to catch up to the induction and pain…I’d have to get an epidural…Which might slow down the labor…Then the baby would go into distress…And I’d have to undergo a C-section. Not that a C-section is the worst possible outcome, but it’s a serious surgery and I would’ve preferred not to go down this road if possible. But I thought maybe that’s exactly the way things end up when you’re blessed with the world’s best pregnancy.
There, I said it! I had an easy pregnancy.
Why should I feel guilty and unworthy of admitting it? Because I didn’t gain fifty pounds, didn’t have my hair fall out, didn’t pop a hemorrhoid, didn’t get swollen, didn’t get morning sickness, didn’t have crazy cravings, didn’t itch, didn’t scratch, didn’t have trouble sleeping at night, and didn’t hate my husband.
I felt like I was definitely in store for a 72-hour labor ending in a C-section. It was inevitable. That was what I’d get for posting my Birth Plan online. After it went live, my message box was inundated with very vehement mom mail. They warned me that labor-delivery-birth couldn’t be planned or predicted, and I was setting myself up for failure. That was never my goal. The purpose of all my research was to be well informed and prepared. I saw the Birth Plan as a rough draft. I could always make edits along the way, and hopefully, I’d be ready for the unexpected, rather than make uneducated, uninformed decisions that I’d later regret.
And without sounding overly New Mexico, I was also hoping that my practices of, meditation and visualization would help me through to my goal of a natural, drug-free birth. If all that failed, well…there was always the fact that I’m a badass Border girl, and maybe, I could tap into that power. Fingers crossed…something had to work here.
June 8, 2015
I was officially two days late, with no signs of anything happening. Dan and I went to our scheduled OB/GYN appointment, and again, dilated a fingertip! This just wasn’t possible!
With an aggressive shove and a bit of love, Dr. Vernon helped me dilate to an official one—I’ll spare the details here. She finished with a warning that I might spot afterward, and if this didn’t help progress things along, then I’d have to be induced the following Monday. Normally, I’d let nature take its course, but the longer the baby stays, the more they’re at risk of meconium aspiration (meconium present in the lungs).
Our baby weighed six pounds and eleven ounces, and she wasn’t growing anymore or prospering inside of my belly. If induction was needed, my options were limited to continue down a natural path. Dr. Vernon proposed performing a manual dilation to help open up the cervix more. Then my body would either naturally take it from there or she could break my water and see if labor began to occur. Either way, I had a week to hope and pray that I went into labor naturally.
Or I could take matters into my own hands.
I increased my walking miles (I’d already stopped running at 38 weeks), started drinking red raspberry leaf tea four times a day, rubbed primrose oil on my lady parts, and tried acupuncture—all to help promote labor. I can’t say for sure whether any of these things worked, but at 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 11, I started to feel contractions.
June 11, 2015
I knew something was happening when these contractions woke me up. I reached over for my cell phone to access the Contractions app. They were 20 minutes apart, lasting 1.5 minutes, and this continued until Dan woke up at 6:30 a.m.
We decided to go about our day like normal. Dan went to work, and I took a couple business meetings.
Dan came home and we had dinner with my mom. By now, the contractions had grown more intense, enough to take my breath away, but I tried to disregard them because they were only 7 minutes apart and lasting 1.5 minutes.
Within an hour, the contractions jumped to 3 minutes apart, lasting 1.5 minutes. We were concerned at this point because we might’ve passed the 5-1-1 rule without even realizing it (contractions every 5 minutes, lasting one minute, and happening for at least an hour). We called our doula Cheryl and told her that we were going to take our time and get ready, then head to the hospital. She said that we could do that, but she was sure that I wasn’t in labor. Had I actually been in labor, I wouldn’t be able to talk on the phone—whatever that meant.
Dan and I slipped into our matching outfits (which I insisted on us wearing) and headed to the hospital. As we walked into Labor and Delivery, the nurses on duty handed me some standard paperwork and asked me to rate my pain from 1-10. Maybe a 6 or a 7, I said. They smiled. It was hard for me to rate pain, because I never really felt any before. I never so much as felt cramps with my period.
One of the nurses escorted us to our hospital room. Cheryl was in there waiting for us. The nurse offered me a gown, but I told her that I brought my own labor outfit and headed into the restroom to put it on. Interesting looks filled the room when I came out wearing a sarong and nursing sports bra. The nurse pointed to the examining table as she snapped on her latex gloves. I leaned back, and she reached deep inside. You’re a 2!
I looked at Cheryl. She lowered her head. Apparently, I wasn’t in labor, but I could stay at the hospital and they’d continue to monitor me. The nurse left the room. Cheryl looked at us and insisted that we leave. It could honestly be another day before I went into real labor. It took three whole days to dilate one centimeter, so my chances of going into labor sitting in a hospital bed were pretty slim. We needed to go home, sleep in our own bed, and rest up for the real event.
Maybe it was the news or the dull pain resting on my skull, but I started throwing up. The thought of staying in the hospital and having someone else clean up my vomit was appealing, or I could sleep in my own bed and clean up my own vomit…
I opted for my bed. The nurse came in and handed us a stack of exit paperwork.
June 12, 2015
We returned home. Dan and I traded our matching outfits in for pajamas, and went to sleep—or at least Dan went to sleep. I stared at my puke bucket in pain.
Dan, Kidd, and Gizzy were all snoring. I wished so badly that I could go to sleep too so that I could be fresh when I went into real labor. Wow, what happened to me? I used to be the girl who could fall asleep on the worst flight or even in a nightclub. Then, almost as if on cue, my pain level increased to an 8, and I was beginning to lose control of my runner’s breathing. The contractions were still coming every 3 minutes, and lasting 1.5 minutes, but the pain was becoming unbearable. And, just before I left the hospital, the nurses reminded me not to come back until I reached the 5-1-1 rule. It was very rare to deviate from this rule. I told myself this was not real labor.
I started moaning—a sound I never heard come from my mouth before. Intense chills began accompanying the moaning. What the hell was real labor was like?
I was mad at all of those women who told me that contractions were similar to gas pains. What kind of gas were they having? A—holes.
I’d officially been up for 24 hours straight, and the moaning was turning into a high-pitched scream. Maybe a bath could help calm things down. I headed to the bathroom and closed all of the doors so that Dan and my mom wouldn’t hear me. They needed to sleep as long as they could, to be fresh and rested for my real labor.
YES! Why did I wait so long to do this?
Damn, what just happened? I went from feeling great relief to a pain level of 10. Now, I didn’t know how in the world I was going to get out of the tub.
I couldn’t believe nobody could hear my screaming. My contractions were now 2 minutes apart, lasting 1.5 minutes. I was never going to get to five minutes apart? If this was false labor, then I didn’t want to know what real labor was like. I WANTED A #*%&#*&# EPIDURAL. I was over this natural, drug-free birth. Even if I was dilated to a 3 or a 4, there was no way I could make it to a 10 without drugs.
I couldn’t catch my breath between contractions any longer. The Badass Border Girl started to cry. Just then, the bathroom door flew open. It was Dan.
“I WANT AN EPIDURAL!” I yelled at him.
I could tell he was thinking about what he was going to say next. “What about the birth plan?” He looked at me.
“I’M IN TOO MUCH PAIN. TUB IS KILLING ME.”
“Well, why are you still in it?”
I stared, waiting for my contraction to pass…thinking of something angry to say.
Dan stepped away from the tub and called Cheryl.
She was certain this still wasn’t real labor.
Dan dragged me out of the bathtub. Then he went looking for a pair of his sweats to stop my chills-convulsions. I collapsed on the bedroom floor when my mom opened the door in tears. She thought it was time to go to the hospital.
“I’m not in labor yet,” I cried.
But that was it! I was tapping out regardless if I was in real labor or not. Mom dressed me, and Dan called the hospital to let them know we were on our way back. Maybe an ambulance could come and get me instead, I thought. How was I going to walk to the car?
Dan called Cheryl and told her that we were headed to the hospital. She said she’d meet us there.
Mom spooned me and rubbed my back until Dan brought the car around. I thought of my mom going through labor and delivery by herself with all three of us kids. My dad worked out of town, and my mom was completely alone. I wasn’t even half the woman she was. She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever known.
She and Dan helped me into the car.
Dan pulled up to the emergency lane, and it took us about twenty minutes to make the three-minute walk to Labor and Delivery.
As we stumbled up to the door, smiles through the cutout window awaited us. I guess I was back much sooner than they expected. Each of them had placed bets on different times, and apparently, how far dilated I was too.
Then they handed me a stack of paperwork again. I shoved it back. I wasn’t in the mood. I just wanted drugs!
Our same nurse walked us back, and again Cheryl was there waiting for us. She took one look at me and whipped out her lavender diffuser. The nurse asked me if I wanted to put on my labor outfit. NO! I was over it. I was in Dan’s old sweats, with my glasses on, and a do-rag on my head. I DIDN’T CARE! In the two minutes between contractions, I slipped into the hospital gown and onto the bed—yet again. I prayed to God.
“SHE’S AN 8!” the nurse yelled and started pulling down the lights and equipment.
I looked at Cheryl. “I can’t!”
She put her loving hand on my shoulder and searched my tired eyes. “I promise, this is the worst pain you’ll ever feel. It won’t get worse than this. And, if you can believe me, when it comes time to push, you’ll go into a euphoric state and it will feel like you have all the time in the world to get this done and meet your little girl.”
I believed her, and it helped me regain my composure. I was almost there. I could do this! NO EPIDURAL. Dan plugged in my New Mexico meditation music, and I went to work meditating and visualizing my way through the pain. Dan and Cheryl were by my side for each and every contraction, helping me control my breathing, helping me believe in myself.
The baby dropped and my water broke.
I had officially been up for 30 hours straight, and I was exhausted when Dr. Vernon came in. The time had come to push. She and Cheryl thought I would be a good candidate for bar squats to help push the baby until she crowned.
Our nurses connected the bar to the bed, and right before every contraction, Dan and Cheryl helped me stand up on top of the bed and push and squat through each contraction until the baby crowned.
Dr. Vernon said in the calmest voice, “It’s time to push with all of your might. One big push!”
Then, as my body was about to begin another contraction, and the guttural moan was growing, I screamed the loudest I’ve ever screamed, and I pushed the most I’ve ever pushed. I never knew the beginning or the end of that contraction. I just embraced it with everything that I had left—I was a new woman. Reborn.
“She’s out… She’s been out…She’s beautiful…You can stop screaming now,” Dr. Vernon said.
I opened my eyes and saw love. It brought me to tears. She was mine. She was ours. And she was perfect.
Dan assisted Dr. Vernon and they laid her on my chest, with the umbilical still pulsating. I watched her breathing and the cord that connected us. Dan and I cried. What a miracle!
“Darlington.” She swung her head to look at me. She recognized my voice, her name, and we stared at each other for the first time. Dan captured this moment and called her name. She turned her head to look at her father.
In that moment, it was clear—we were all chosen for each other; we were family.