I’ve never been the type to have a high threshold for pain. I would rock a messy bun for weeks just to avoid the agony of untangling my hair. So when I envisioned myself giving birth, I foresaw myself gleefully welcoming the anesthesiologist and succumbing into the delicious numbness that is the epidural. After all, pain medication was invented for a reason! Then, in the early weeks of pregnancy, I came across the documentary The Business of Being Born part 1 & 2. For two hours I was intrigued by these women who underwent home births like it was a day at the spa. Cindy Crawford & Giselle Bundchen used adjectives like “tranquil” & “empowered”. One lady didn’t even utter a moan while she pushed her baby out in a kiddie pool in the middle of her living room. After that, I was sold. I thought, “if they can do it then why not me? I can channel my inner super model and rock this birth”. I immediately started researching tips on unmedicated births and began morning affirmations of “I can do this. I am a woman. I am strong.”
I will admit my pregnancy was relatively easy. Aside from first trimester exhaustion and the impossibility of sleep, I had very little symptoms. Towards the end of the second trimester, when my belly started to look like it was harboring a baby rather than excess food, I even began to embrace it. At 38 weeks, my doctor told me I was 2cm dilated and the “baby was very low and could come out any day now”. That’s the biggest BS can of hope you can tell a pregnant lady at the wit end of her pregnancy. That “any day now” dragged for another two weeks. I’d wake up every morning with the pipe dream of it being “the day” and go to bed utterly disappointed and pissed at the useless concept of cervical tests. Some women can be 3cm dilated for weeks while others can go from 0-9cm in a matter of hours.
Then one night at 1:30 am , 2 days past his due date, I awoke to the sensation of water trickling out of my vajayjay. I ran to the bathroom in a sleepy haze thinking “damnit, I pissed myself”. I sat on the toilet and more fluids leaked out uncontrollably. I woke up my husband and told him I thought my water broke but with no contractions, had him to go back to sleep because it could be awhile. Two hours later, mild contractions began. Now they say that there are stages to labor, first being denial. I can attest to that because I remember thinking “this isn’t so bad.” They were about 6 minutes apart so I even drew myself a bath with essential oils to relax. I then spent the next 5 hours sitting on my exercise ball, hunched over my bed, practicing my breathing. At 8:30 when my doctor’s office opened, I called and nonchalantly told them my water broke. They scolded me and told to come in right away despite the 5-1-1 rule because water breaking puts you at risk for infection. We headed to the hospital around 9am and even though the contractions grew more intense, I was still cool as a cucumber. Because I could do this. I was a woman. I was strong.
We checked in to the hospital and they brought me to a small room where they check your progression. This is when they determined whether or not to keep you or send you back home to suffer. By that point, I already had three cervix tests so it was not a sensation foreign to me. I don’t know why, but the nurse checking me felt the need to shove her whole fist up my vagina. I honestly felt like I was violated and the perplexed look of concern on my husband’s face read he concurred. She told me I was 5 cm dilated and that I was staying. By this point, contractions only got more intense and I began to feel nauseated. The nausea I was not expecting at all. They offered me medication but I declined and asked for gingerale instead. I began to have what the nurse described as “back contractions” and damn, that shit hurts! It felt like dozens of little men taking jackhammers to my spine. I recalled advice to walk around, sit on an exercise ball, squat, etc to help progress labor, but I thought eff that! I had been awake since 1:30am and all I wanted to do was hunch over the bed. That’s the position I stayed in until they made my pregnant butt walk to my delivery room. Like seriously? They didn’t even offer me a wheelchair. Still, the pain was manageable and I was able to relax in between the contractions.
At around 12pm, shit began to get real. I could not keep any of my fluids down throwing up instantly after drinking. This made a bag of saline necessary and I obliged despite my desire to not take anything. I was around 7cm and this is referred to as the “transitional period” aka the 9 circles of hell when your body (supposedly) rapidly finishes dilating the cervix. This is the stage usually depicted in movies when sweet little moms morph into Godzilla and dad’s run around helpless and frantic. For me, this was by far the most challenging. Contractions were more intense and lasted longer while the breaks in between grew shorter. I shook uncontrollably from the intensity and thought numerous times “what in the hell was I thinking trying to do this without drugs? I am not strong. This effin blows.” The only thing that helped me get through each unrelenting wave of contractions was getting primal. I made noises. Ugly noises. Loud moans that I, for a split second, was embarrassed about. I kept saying I wanted my mama like a little girl with a very big booboo. I told my husband I hated him in between grunts. I called out to God more times than I could remember. I swore up and down I was never subjecting myself to that pain ever again.
One hour later (1pm), the nurse checked and I was at 9cm dilated. I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when the they told me it would only be another half hour and I’d be ready to push. Well… that “half hour” came and went 6 times. Yes, I was stuck at 9cm for over 3 torturous hours. After each half hour check with no progression, I began to lose my shit. Are you certain I’m only at 9? How reliable are your fingers? Does 1cm really fricking matter? This baby needs to get the eff out. OMG let me just have a C-section! As unpleasant as I probably was, my husband kept his composure and I’m thankful for that. When my resolve wavered, he reminded me that I hadn’t gone all that way to just give up. He remained hunched over rubbing my lower back for hours in attempt to give me some comfort. He kept telling me I could do it and that I was strong. I wanted to punch him.
Finally, at around 4:30, the birth gods decided to show me mercy and I was at the magical number 10. A small part of me grew briefly afraid because it’s dubbed the “ring of fire” for a reason. The better part of me implored to get my shit together because I was getting that baby out of me. With a nurse on one side, my husband on the left, and my doctor front and center of my all too open hooha, they began coaching me to push. Another nurse stood idly in the background and momentarily I thought about how this was the closest my husband will ever come to a foursome. I was delirious. They coached me through three pushes per each round of contractions with a brief rest to catch my breath in between. For half an hour, we went through an unrelenting cycle of push – push – push – rest. I felt every single millimeter of his head opening me up. I thought this would be the hardest part but, surprisingly, focusing on the notion that each push brought me closer to meeting my blind date almost numbed the pain. Don’t get me wrong, pushing was EXHAUSTING. It felt like a never ending cycle of two steps forward and one step back. They asked if I wanted a mirror to see but I could already feel my lady parts being massacred so no thanks, I did not need to see it. Finally, my doctor told me to open my eyes and seconds later, she hands me this slimy little human with 10 fingers and 10 toes and a full pound bigger than the 6lbs I at least hoped he would be.
I thought I would cry upon meeting the little guy I’ve been growing. I didn’t. I was in a state of exhaustion, bliss, pain, wonder and love all rolled into one. He cried while they wiped him down on my chest but when we locked eyes, he stopped. He knew I was his and he was mine and he was safe and he was loved. I marveled at how much bigger my heart grew and how deeply I fell even more in love with my husband for helping me make this gift. Oxitocyn is the shit.
The moments, days, and weeks of endless diaper changes, chapped nipples and learning curves that followed are now wrapped in a sleep deprived haze. All the pain from those 14 excruciating hours are now a distant memory. As I sit here typing with a three month old cooing away next to me in all of his innocence and sweetness, I ask myself if I would go through that experience again… Absolutely.
Below is a video that documented the day. Check it out! Don’t worry – there’s nothing gruesome. 😛