I've never written this story down before. But as June's first birthday approaches, it seems more and more important that I do so. My hesitation about telling it has always been because the whole birth was so difficult and painful. Yet it culminated in the greatest introduction I've ever experienced. And such marvelous sweetness. And such new feelings of pride, joy, and protection. I never wanted to taint the beginning of her life with a gruesome story.
I went into labor on December 9th late at night. My water broke. I'd had a false alarm before, but this was a huge gush which mostly made it into the toilet. I woke Adam and we called the birth center. Because my water had broken we had to go in for me to be treated with antibiotics. I had Group B Strep (GBS) and would have to have an IV treatment of antibiotics every four hours until the baby was born in order to protect her from bacterial infection.
Despite the huge gush of water I experienced then, no more came out. It turns out I had something called a "high leak." I think it added to the major swelling due to water retention that I already had going on. I couldn't squat. My ankles were practically immobile they were so stiff with water, my knees nearly as wide as my calves and thighs. During labor it was difficult to pee.
We went home after my first IV treatment to return in four hours. I was barely dilated and my contractions weren't regular or close enough together. At home I couldn't sleep but just sat in a rocking chair and prepped myself to give birth. We headed back to the birth center only to be sent home again. I don't know if it was this trip or the next one that my "discussion" with the midwife sent me into the fight or flight response. I wanted to stay and give birth. She told me that labors proceed better at home. She told me that my labor had not even progressed enough for the hospital to admit me. When I told her that it wasn't like I could labor at home since it was a half-hour drive both ways and I had to just return in four hours, she invited me to check into a hotel. I went into a fearful hysteria.
My contractions had been coming regularly and less than four minutes apart, coming closer together. However, the midwife said I was only 2 cm dilated (which she then reduced to 1 cm dilated for argument and to my disgust) and that my labor was going to take a lot longer. I felt as though I was being rejected from the birth center and that she was being pushy to say the least. Labor can progress very quickly, and the 4 minutes apart contractions were what I had been repeatedly told were the necessary requirement for being checked in for labor. I know that being told to leave stalled my labor. I felt lost, hopeless, and afraid. I resented this midwife (who I had only met once before), but more than that I just didn't know how to get through it and it was as though my safe place had been denied me.
About 24 hours later I gave birth to June in the hospital. The midwife tended two other births and barely even checked in on me. I wish I were exaggerating. A nurse did come check in on me about once an hour. Adam, sweet lovely Adam, provided steady support the whole way through, breathing with me through my contractions. "Hee-hee-hoo."
What kept me stubbornly holding on at the birth center was a desire to be immediately handed my baby once she was born. I wanted her placed on my belly as I continued to push out the placenta. I wanted to immediately place her to my breast, look into her eyes, and let her know for the first time, "I'm here baby, mommy is here." I didn't know yet I was having a girl though, so I get ahead of myself.
Like a limp noodle, I transferred to Tucson Medical Center at about 2 AM on December 11. The midwife had come in and broken my water with some device in order to encourage the contractions to come faster. I had no faith in her or in me. I'd been in and out of a few different hot tubs. I'd been falling asleep during the spaces between contractions. I'd been afraid I might die.
After she broke my water, the amniotic fluid kept gushing out in warm spurts. I was naked and wrapped in a blanket. We headed out into the dark thirty-something degree night. I had put on some long johns which were now soaking wet. I was shivering and beyond exhausted, racked in pain. The water seeped onto a towel on the seat of the car. From this dark crazy tunnel we entered the front door of the well-lit hospital and I was swept up by a team of sweet angels into a special room. I had an epidural. I had pitosin. I reclined and was given oxygen. I was checked on every fifteen minutes. Adam rested on a couch. I felt the baby, aided by pitosin, move farther into my pelvis. I knew when it was time to push.
I started pushing at almost six am. Of course the epidural had started to wear off. That was okay because it was strange to be so numbed. Part of the trade-off with having an epidural is that you can no longer support yourself on your legs. We tried so many pushing positions that I can't believe I didn't push her out. I started to worry again and doubt if I could do it. Hospital policy required notifying a doctor if I didn't push the baby out after two hours. So the doctor came in, a nice woman, though she had too long of finger nails and I hated when she reattached my catheter.
I also hated when, in order to reposition the baby, she reached inside and pushed June all the way back up the birth canal. I wanted to cry at all my work lost. June had had her head slightly angled, and that is why I hadn't been able to push her out. At this point we elected to do a vacuum assist. I would have three chances to push June out this way. After the third try the risk of damaging the baby would be too high. I would have to have an emergency c-section.
I don't know how I did it, but I pushed June out on the third try, though I did have an episiotomy. I felt what they call the ring of fire when the baby finally made it through. It is such an accurate term. But amazingly, once you feel it, the pain completely dissolves away. I had heard that too but didn't believe it before. It was amazing relief to have birthed the baby. Adam was right there the whole time, though June's grandparents wouldn't come in for a little while yet. The doctor pulled out my placenta. I got to see it later, a male nurse or doctor showed it to me and explained all the relevant parts. I was told that I had a pretty umbilical cord with a double coil.
The relief was so great, that I believe it may have been a whole minute before I asked the sex of the baby. I was just laying there, feeling the lack of pain, enjoying the calm hospital staff because it meant the baby was okay, and watching the intensity of the moment reflected on Adam's face as he looked at our little one. He had tears in his eyes. I was being stitched up.
"What is it?" I asked.
A girl, a darling little girl.
The best things about my labor were Adam's presence and June's strong, steady heartbeat. Despite all my panic, she never went into distress. I don't think I could have endured it any other way. With all that focus on the type of birth and those initial moments of awareness, it is easy to forget that what is really important is simply having a healthy baby. And we're pretty resilient after all.
I first held June there in the delivery room, and we tried nursing for the first time, though only for a few seconds. We were rushed into a wheelchair and June off for tests. But the beauty of it was that she was born, perfect, seven pounds thirteen ounces, 20.5 inches long, and she got a 9-10 on her APGARs. The room crowded with doctors and nurses all exclaimed about how healthy she was. My lovely little girl.