It’s Birth Story week. If you’re new here, Scarlett was born in 2007.
I did it! I pushed that baby out of the place through which nature intended it, and it was a much less exciting experience than I expected.
Since my first baby was c-sectioned out of me thirteen days late, I truly didn’t expect the second to arrive before her due date, but labor started around midnight on the third of July, letting me know that my daughter would have a 4th of July birthday. Whohoo! Holiday birthday AND three days early. I’m already in love.
And this time, my contractions didn’t start for a couple of hours after my water broke, so we had a peaceful ride to the hospital, having called The Aunties to come stay with Julian. (My college roommate and her life partner lived down the street from us and were on call until my parents could arrive in the morning.)
At the hospital, I was confronted with paper work and a phone call that made me question my decision to have a vaginal birth after cesarean. The OB on call had to speak to me on the phone and inform me of the risks. I tried to pry out of her what she would do if she were me. No good insights there. She stuck to the book. Then I was asked to sign a document which I found ridiculous, acknowledging that I was taking responsibility for a trial of labor which could go badly. I signed it, outwardly rolling my eyes, but inwardly wondering if I was taking a risk bigger than surgery.
Onward we moved to a labor and delivery room. My labor pains started and I remembered what a woman had told me at the park a few weeks earlier, about the childbirth coaching she’d had that taught her to let each contraction wash over her– not to fight the pain but visualize it opening your body and relax into each contraction. You guys, I live in Berkeley. This is what Park Bench Strangers say to each other. Anyhow, it totally helped.
I wanted to wait as long as I could before asking for an epidural because I was afraid to do anything that might stall my labor. Eventually, the pain became excruciating and I called for drugs. Actually, I asked for intravenous drugs first because my friend Stephanie, a three-time vaginal birth veteran, told me that Fentanyl “takes the edge off” but you can still move around and get up after labor.
Poor choice. I felt high, nauseous, and my vision was blurred for the next 12 hours, even during recovery. Plus, the pain did not lessen.
Eventually, I got the epidural.
As it was being administered, I remember thinking I was going to die. My abdomen felt like it was turning inside out. Another possibility I considered in that moment is that I was becoming a werewolf. I felt guilty for saying nothing aloud except for a string of curse words, because whether I died or became a furry nocturnal monster, Ryan would have had no warning.
Finally, the epidural began working and I returned to human. Someone came to measure my cervix.
TEN! I am kicking ass at this labor!
No wonder I was transitioning into a super natural being. I was ready to push!
Since I didn’t experience it with my first birth, I had built up “pushing” in my mind to be this tremendous feat of which I might be incapable. I was totally surprised by how still and quiet this moment was. With a nurse sitting on my bed and Ryan by my side, I did the work silently and was amazed to hear I was doing it right. The nurse built me up, repeating over and over how strong I was and how well I was pushing. Frankly, when someone has access to your private parts in that vulnerable a position, the only appropriate words to deliver are praise.
However, after 45 minutes, a doctor came in to check progress and started saying that if I didn’t push this baby out more quickly, I might need a c-section. I found this rude and unsupportive and truthfully, I didn’t really believe her. I really wanted her to get out of my way and just let me and my new best friend, the nurse, do this thing.
New Best Friend led me to believe we were almost done and to pay no mind to grumpy-knife-happy obstetrician. Seriously, I bet these ladies have a good cop/bad cop routine going. The obstetrician threatens the patient so that she’ll push harder, then Nurse Best Friend pumps up her confidence. And dammit, it works.
Moments later, Scarlett was born.
Related: I think every rookie mom dreams of a victory baby.