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With my first baby I was due on May 1st, 2003. I was a freshman in college at the time. That spring semester I did extra work and my professors let me finish up the semester early…after all, they didn’t want me going into labor in one of their classes! So I completed my first year of college one week or so before my son Brendan was due.
My whole pregnancy had been great…both baby and I were as healthy as could be. When I visited my midwife on Monday (three days before the due date) I learned I was 100% effaced and 2 centimeters dilated. For the last few days before I gave birth I noticed my son had gone pretty quiet, he wasn’t moving around as much and seemed to have entered a restive state. It was almost as though he “knew” the big day was coming and he needed to rest up for it! As for me I didn’t feel as hungry those last days. Then the night before my due date I suddenly became ravenous. I ate a huge dinner that evening and then I went to bed. That night I had a really strange dream.
I dreamt I needed to buy a new pair of sunglasses. So I walked into this little sunglass store at a shopping outlet. I started to try on different pairs to look for a good fit, but with every new pair I tried on the sunglasses seemed to get tighter and tighter on my face. Finally I put on a pair and they were so snug I couldn’t take them off! A customer came over to try and help me and so did the store manager. So I had two people trying to pull the sunglasses off me but they were stuck. It was then that I woke up. I looked at the clock…1:50 am on May 1st. My due date had arrived.
So like any pregnant woman waking in the middle of the night I went downstairs to pee then went back upstairs and got into my bed again. I lay there and felt something…my tummy seemed to go hard and it hurt a twinge. Was this labor I wondered? So I lay still and sure enough I felt the contractions repeating every so often. I would look at the clock and time them - they were irregular, but steady enough. I tried to go back to bed but couldn’t sleep.
So I headed downstairs and made myself a cup of mint tea and grabbed a bottle of water, the phone, and our cat and headed back upstairs. Why the cat? It was the middle of the night and I didn’t want to wake anyone yet so I thought the cat would make do for company. Normally she would sit in my lap for hours on end if I let her but not that night. She knew I was in labor and she wanted no part of it thank you very much so she quickly went back downstairs.
Instead of going back to my bedroom I went to the nursery. This was the room where I had spent so many hours getting everything ready…painting the walls, adding a wall border, filling the bookcase with children’s books and the dressers with baby clothes, the crib was set up with beautiful bedding, and their were toys and stuffed animals all over. In the nursery I felt closer to my son so it was only natural I wanted to spend my time in labor there.
The contractions got stronger with time, at first I just felt them on my belly but then they spread to my back and it was like feeling a thick belt pressing tightly on me or like I had a giant blood pressure cuff on my middle squeezing tighter and tighter. I felt good through the whole labor, only during contractions was I in any pain. I tried my birthing ball and getting down on all fours when one hit…but ultimately I found that sliding to the floor and laying on my side felt best during contractions. I let each one run through my body without trying to fight it. I just relaxed and let my body do what it needed to do.
By 6am I was in a good deal of pain. I called up the midwife to tell her I was in labor. It was my first baby and I had only gone through 4 hours of labor…so naturally she thought we had plenty of hours to go yet. She suggested I take a couple Tylenol and have a beer or glass of wine. I thanked her for her advice before hanging up but in my head was screaming, ”Tylenol! You think Tylenol is going to make a difference with the amount of pain I am in?! And I’m 19! I’m underage and here you are telling me to just relax with a glass of wine…jeez lady!” It wasn’t taking much for me to feel irritated at that point.
By 7am I had my friend Heather, who served as my labor coach, over at my house and my dad ready to drive me to the hospital when it was time. I had just showered and I lay on the couch with my lap in Heather’s head. She stroked my hair and told me it smelled good, but I was at a point where words could offer little comfort. I had entered the transition stage but was denying it to myself. It couldn’t possibly be time to have the baby I told myself…first labors take a long time. But I kept getting up and going to the bathroom. I didn’t have to go though, it just felt like I had to and it felt good to sit on the toilet. Finally I did pee a bit and when I went to wipe saw a touch of bright red blood. I had read that that kind of blood often meant the last of the cervix had melted away. So Heather called the midwife to let her know what was going on. I had a huge contraction while she was on the phone and felt like pushing so I moaned twice to stop myself from doing so. The midwife told us to head to the hospital.
The ride there was horrible, even though it was a short ride at just a few miles. The car was hot, my seat belt felt annoying, and I kept feeling the urge to push. Every so often I gave in and pushed just a little bit and it felt great to do so. It offered a touch of relief. Upon arrival I was whisked upstairs to the labor floor and a nurse showed me into a room that said “Early Labor Room”. Why are they pointing me in here I wondered, this baby wants to come out now. They sat me in a chair to take my vitals and my midwife came in the room then. “For goodness sakes she’s trying to push! She needs to be in a labor room!” Finally someone with some common sense! So I followed a nurse down the hall and we seemed to walk forever. I just wanted them to put me in a room so I could take my clothes off and push the baby out. That was all my mind was frantically set on: I had to get that baby out and get it out NOW.
Once in the room I stripped down to my nursing bra and socks put on a hospital gown and hopped up onto the bed spreading my legs as wide as I could. It felt very unladylike and normally I’m quite modest but I was past caring who saw me naked at that point. The midwife checked me and found I was dilated to 10 with a bulging bag of waters. I turned to Heather and joyously exclaimed, “I did it! I made it to 10 centimeters without needing meds!” “You still have to push Brendan out,” she reminded me. “Details!”, I said triumphantly. I was so happy that I was going to have a natural childbirth just like I wanted.
I asked if I could start pushing then and they told me to go ahead. I had one nurse supporting one leg and arm, Heather supporting the other leg and arm. I still felt alright between contractions, but there was a great pushing, stretching, burning sensation down there. I felt almost desperate to get him out. In my mind I thought if I was nice to everyone in the room with me they would be more likely to help me with this so I put my best manners on. So when I felt thirsty after a contraction I turned to the nurse and said, “Excuse me, but may I please have a sip of water? Oh thank you ever so much.” Looking back it almost makes me laugh, but I suppose all women act differently than they normally would in labor. But I never imagined I would act so polite while in such pain, nor did I think I would get through labor without crying out or screaming because of the pain. But I did, the most I did was moan twice. It just wasn't as bad as I thought it would be - labor and birth are full of surprises!
So finally my water broke with a great splash and there was some meconium in it. Two pediatricians were brought into the room to take my son as soon as he came out so he could be suctioned quickly before he could inhale any. The midwife went ahead and cut an episiotomy to get Brendan out quicker just to be on the safe side. I didn’t even feel the cut with all that was going on down there. Another push and he was out.
I heard a nurse call out “8:07 am” and I repeated the time of my son’s birth twice in my head. I looked down at him laying between my legs. I couldn’t believe after all those months of waiting and all the anticipation he was finally there. “Is he really mine?”, I asked. I was still in shock at how quick the labor had gone. “He sure is,” said my nurse with a smile.
The midwife asked if I wanted to cut the cord but I declined. My son and I had been connected for so long and I didn’t want to be the one to sever that connection. He was passed to the pediatricians who said he was just fine. He hadn’t inhaled any meconium. Wiped clean and swaddled Brendan was soon placed in my arms and he immediately had an interest in nursing.I put him to my left breast first since that one is closest to my heart. I nursed him while my episiotomy was stitched up and we waited for the placenta to arrive. Surprisingly I didn’t feel any urge to push it out but eventually it came out - and nicely intact too.
Then it was time for my son to go to the nursery for a bath and to be weighed and measured, etc. I gave him a kiss and regretfully handed him over to a nurse. It was also time to move me to a postpartum room on another floor. I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and got up to walk out of the room. The nurse looked shocked. I asked if everything was okay and she said that women don’t tend to pop right out of bed after giving birth. But that it was good that I felt like being up and about.
I declined taking a wheelchair to the floor with the postpartum rooms and as soon as I was in my room sent for breakfast. I was absolutely starving at that point. Brendan was brought back to me within an hour…although to me it felt like he had been missing for hours. I was informed he was 19.5” long and weight 7lbs 8 ˝ oz. Perfect in every way.
We stayed in the hospital for the recommended two days, during which time he never left my side again. I was a nervous first time mommy and wanted to make sure he was just fine, otherwise I would have gone home sooner. Besides, while there I had plenty of extra help from the nurses to make sure we got off to a great start with breastfeeding.
Pushing my son into the world I never felt more like a woman, more like a goddess. It was the single most empowering experience of my life and now that I only have weeks to go before I give birth to my next baby I hope it goes just as beautifully. The only thing I would like to see go differently next time is to avoid an episiotomy and go home as soon as possible after the birth. One thing I do know is I can't wait to experience labor and birth again. It's makes for an exciting and beautiful day. And at the end there's a new child to fall in love with.
I don't have any of the hospital pics currently uploaded on my computer but heres a few of my son at around 2-3 months old: