*I am a firm believer that every woman has and is entitled to have her own unique birth experience. This story does not aim to portray what every birth is about. This is solely my own experience and a very treasured one. I did not birth her (almost entirely) naturally to win any medal. I did birth her naturally because after a lot of research, counseling and a very supportive and experienced provider, it seemed to be the best choice for my baby, myself and my whole family.
It was 5 AM. My parents were going to leave Columbia in less than 3 hours and they were not going to meet the baby.
I woke Scott up crying uncontrollably. Starting at 8 pm the previous night I had had fairly regular contractions every 10 minutes or so. I called my doula who suggested I go to sleep and see how it was progressing. She mentioned how the process could take even days, and recommended some rest. I went to sleep and the contractions almost stopped. When Scott saw me that morning, he thought I was in pain, but I immediately told him I wasn’t. I was just so sad. I had loved having my parents here and I didn’t want them to leave. He put his arm around my shoulders and we fell asleep. Soon enough my parents were going to stop by to say goodbye before getting into the taxi that would have taken them to St. Louis and then back to Italy.
Suddenly, I felt it. I looked at the clock. It was 6 am. I sat up in bed. I didn’t want to wake him up. Not yet. Another one. I accessed my contraction app on my phone. They were two minutes apart. Because I had planned a VBAC, my doctor had recommended to head to the hospital for external monitoring when contractions were 7 minutes apart. I woke Scott up again and told him the contractions were two minutes apart. I headed to the shower to be absolutely sure that this was the real deal. I switched on the hot water, I got in and I felt it again. I was kneeling in the shower holding onto the plastic curtain. I was not gonna look pretty. Looking like a kitten in the rain, my husband had to come rescue me from the bottom of the shower. This was the real deal. No doubt. We needed to go. We called our doula. She said she didn’t have childcare in place for her kids and she needed to figure something out.
I put on a white and blue stripy dress. The contractions kept coming every 2 minutes. Every time one started, I knelt on the bedroom floor because that was the only position that helped me cope. I asked Scott to reach my parents who were still at the hotel. After a couple of calls my mom finally picked up and they agreed to postpone their departure and headed to our house to take care of Oliver, who, unaware of what was happening, kept sleeping soundly in his room. While we waited for my parents, Scott called labor and delivery and asked the nurse to page my doctor. We had paged him a couple other times during this pregnancy and every time, be it day or night, we had been able to talk to him within minutes. The nurse who answered instead kept asking questions and got really irritated when we told her that the contractions were 2 minutes apart. She did not put me in contact with my doctor and sternly told us we had to get to the hospital ASAP.
It felt like ages before I heard my mom’s and dad’s voices.
They came upstairs and tried to sooth me while talking gently to me. Oliver was awakened by all the noise and my dad went to his room and picked him up. My mom helped me scoot down the stairs. The contractions were so close that I felt there was no time for resting. I could not find Scott. I raised my voice. He was in the kitchen getting me some food, per our doula’s suggestion. I got fairly impatient and told him to drop the ‘damned’ banana. I was afraid the baby would be born before we made it to the hospital. After the bags were quickly packed, I tried to get in the car. I couldn’t sit through contractions. I begged Scott to let me out of the car. My mom asked if we needed to call an ambulance. After all, the hospital was only 5 minutes away. I gathered my courage and we immediately left the driveway.
Fast. Very fast. The traffic light was red. It was 6:40 am and no one was coming. In between contractions I begged him to run it. No cars were coming, and I could not sit in the car any longer. He was driving really really fast on a road that has a 35 mph speed limit. We parked at the ER. I opened the car’s door and knelt in the parking lot. Scott ran in to look for help. Minutes later (that felt like hours), I saw him running out the door again with a wheel chair. Baffled, he told me no one beside the insurance lady at the window was there, and while she kept asking him irrelevant questions, he stole a wheel chair and came to rescue me. I know, right? My husband, my hero. On our way in we finally found an aid who begrudgely told me I had to sit still on the chair or else she wasn’t going to be able to wheel me to labor and delivery. I mean, you try sitting through these wicked contractions. The contractions still going strong, I was welcomed by the receptionist whose main purpose was to annoy me with a bunch of questions I had already answered the previous month when we were there for possible pre-term labor. She wanted to see my insurance card that had been on file already. When she asked the telephone number of my employer I lost it. I really lost it. After throwing my insurance card across her desk, a nurse promptly rolled me down to the delivery room.
There was no need for me to go to triage.
A very young nurse introduced herself and asked me to wear a hospital gown and leave a urine sample.
I probably wore the gown for a couple of minutes. Too warm already and feeling claustrophobic I stripped off all of my clothes and kept laboring with only my bra. I surprisingly didn’t care. That was the only way I felt good. The nurse came back and resumed the annoying questions I was asked at the front desk. I asked if they had called Burks and she said they did not. We started arguing about the fact that they didn’t page him earlier and that he was not even aware I was there. She needed to check me first. The doula was MIA. I thank God I had my Scott with me.
I was at 3 cm. Only?! I thought I was about to have the baby. I started to lose confidence. How long was this going to last? Was I going to be able to have the natural birth Scott and I had hoped, planned, studied for and spent a ton on money on? Scott called back our doula. She was still trying to figure out what to do with her kids. I felt defeated and cheated. When Scott told her I was at 3cm she suggested we head home, and she started worrying about my pain tolerance. There was no way on earth I was going home. I had never experienced labor before but I had to trust my instincts. Scott tried to give me a massage and I pushed him away. I didn’t want anyone to touch me. We were lost. We were counting on massage. We were counting on our doula being there.
The nurse came back. She had no advice to give. I even had to ask her for a birth ball and for a mat to put on the ground, since my knees had been on the bare floor for the past hour. She seemed more concerned with the fetal monitoring—which was warranted, given my previous c-section—and with going through her stupid questions. All I was able to think was that I had this very inexperienced, useless nurse and that my other support person had failed to show up. The nurse did not seem to catch onto the fact that I barely knew what my name was during a contraction. Relentlessly, she asked if we lived in a house or an apartment. I suddenly mutated into the Hulk and I shouted back: “Shut up!” I immediately regretted it and apologized. “I promise, I am a nice person, but please wait for a contraction to be over to ask me the next question.”
The meds started to seem more and more appealing.
I looked at Scott and I told him I needed them. I knew we had talked about going med free, especially because we wanted to maximize the chances of having a VBAC. I wanted labor to take its natural course, but at the same time I started seriously doubting my ability to endure it. The phone on speakerphone, my doula was trying her best to guide me through and finally announced she was on her way there. I felt hopeful again. Alternating between bouncing on the birth ball and kneeling on the floor, and with cables going all over around me due to the monitoring, forcing me to stay near the bed, I asked the nurse what pain meds were available to me besides the epidural. She mentioned Stadol, an intravenous narcotic. I remembered I had heard about it during Oliver’s birthing class, but I had not done much research on the topic.
I decided to wait for the doula to get there before making a decision. The pain was intensifying and my pleas to get a repeat C-section was only at its starting point. On my hands and knees, Scott squatting next to me, I started crying that I wanted it to be over, that I could not do it, and that I wanted a repeat C-section. I clearly remember Scott looking into my eyes and saying: “You are not going to have a C-section!” Losing any form of control, I hit him on his back. He was lost at sea.
Where the hell was our doula?
Around 10 am she finally made it to the hospital. Our natural birth hope was there. I was fairly upset at her and glad she made it at the same time. She was very apologetic and I felt a little calmer. Around the same time my doctor got to our room and stayed with us the rest of the labor. I told him I didn’t know if I could do it. I can’t remember much of what he said the whole time. He was so soft spoken. All that counted was his joyful character and peaceful face. I could read on his face that he believed in me. I had known it for the past 20 weeks of my pregnancy since the very first morning we went to meet him and decided to switch to his care after our doula had recommended him. He had delivered more than 6000 babies, he had one of the lowest C-section rates in town and had worked with many VBAC moms. I looked at him and he smiled back. I decided to try Stadol after all and it was explained to me that it probably would only help me for a couple of hours at the most and that I could still get an epidural if I felt like it. They needed to call a more experienced nurse. The young nurse did not trust herself to put the needle in since I moved so much on the ball. She felt like adding that I could never get an epidural placed in because of that same reason. If you have ever seen my crazy eyes mode, well, that was it.The IV was placed, the drugs administered, my head started spinning.
Wait, what the heck?
The pain was still there. I was promised a couple of hours pain free. I was told I could possibly take a nap. No no no.
I felt so wasted. I was back on my knees regretting my choice and got so agitated I pulled out my IV from my hand. The nurse realized it too late, when the liquids had already infiltrated under the skin, my hand looking like an elephant foot. I was in labor and all of a sudden my ugly hand became my main concern. Indeed totally wasted. They checked me every hour and I was progressing fast. A couple centimeters here, a couple centimeters there. I told Scott I was so glad we stayed at the hospital. I would have had the baby at home otherwise or at least we would have needed to call for an ambulance.
My vocalizations, were getting louder and louder and Scott and K., my doula, had to take me back to the lower tones more than once. I knew all the theory, I had practiced it during my prenatal yoga classes, but boy was it hard in the delivery room. I was really thankful they both were there to help.
Eventually I was not high any longer and kept considering the epidural. My water had just broken spontaneously. My doctor proceeded to check me. “You are ready” he said. I was ready to push. The epidural train had passed. For the very first time I got really scared. I was afraid that I could not push the baby out of me. The pressure was increasing and I imagined having to push 13-month-old Oliver’s head out. I had forgotten what a newborn looked like. After all, Oliver was my baby and all of a sudden he became the only term of comparison. “I am gonna die,” I kept saying. “Give me a C-section.” “Please, I changed my mind. I really want a C-section. I really do. Just do what I say!” I had lost control. Standing, all the pressure in my pelvic area. I could not lay down. “Don’t make me lay down.” My doula asked if I wanted her and Scott to pray. I can’t remember what they said. I felt relieved for a bit. My doctor’ s voice became much louder than usual. He said he would prefer for me to lay down because from his experience that was what worked best.
I was really mad, I could not envision myself laying down and I was about to kick them all with my feet when I heard her.
Tammi, a nurse that had just come in to help during the pushing, held my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “You need to be back in control. I know it hurts. Your body was made to do this, you are the only one that can get that baby out and she needs you to do it. You can do this! Do you understand me? Now when you feel a contraction you need to push like this.” She was very thorough and after a couple of pushes I got the hang of it. Pushing started to feel so relieving. My doctor switched to coaching mode. I was so grateful and at the same time I was so upset at him for pushing me to get the birth that I had wanted for the past 9 months. He kept telling me: “Push, Mama, push.” I could hear him, I could hear Tammi. They were coaching me both. K., was feeding me ice chips. Scott was standing next to my doctor. I did not think he wanted to watch from the bottom perspective, but there he was. He kept telling me how good I was and how proud of me he was.
Then it hit me. Eve’s curse.”With painful labor you will give birth to your children.”
As crazy as it sounds, it just became really reassuring to me that it was not just me. This pain had been felt by millions of other women before. And it had a reason behind it. Every time I pushed, I kept reciting it in my head (in Italian). I had no idea how long I had been pushing. My doctor and Scott got very excited. One inch of black hair. The baby has lots of hair. It was when I thought I really could not take it any longer, that she came out all wet and beautiful and was immediately placed on my chest. Oh, how I had longed for that moment. All of a sudden I felt like I had never felt in my whole life. Peace. Relief. Ecstasy. The earth stood still. She was so little, her head nothing like her 13-month-old brother’s I was so worried about. I had done it. I pushed another human out of me. She was mine. My beautiful daughter, and unlike her brother, she had the chance to find her way easily to the breast. She was perfect. She had this French little nose and long fingers. She was my Margot. And for the second time in 13 months, I was a Mother again.