Long before I got pregnant I had a vision of my ideal birth. I wanted my birth to be a natural experience free of medication and intervention. Feeling fully present both physically and mentally for each painful moment was very important to me. I am someone who never even takes an Advil so the thought of an epidural was much more frightening to me than the pain of labor and delivery. As my pregnancy went on I worked closely with my birth coach and OB to realize my dreams of a natural birth experience. I also spent a lot of time working on a detailed birth plan to give out at the hospital so my desires would be known. All the while I struggled to come to terms with the idea that labor and delivery rarely go as planned and that my greatest control would be to let go of control. What I wanted most was to be mentally and emotionally prepared for anything. Easier said than done.
By the end of my 38th week I was done. Although friends and family reassured me I looked great and was “all belly”, I felt like a manatee that had just eaten a basketball. I had lots of swelling in my feet and legs to the point where if I went twenty minutes without having them elevated I could barely walk. I was holding fluid all over, including increased amniotic fluid, which made my belly feel extra large.
On Friday April 26th I took myself for a manicure and pedicure. I was paranoid about going into labor without fresh nails so I had been getting them done quite regularly. I then had my weekly pre-natal massage where I begged Amanda to work on some labor inducing points to see if we could give the little one a gentle eviction notice.
Doug had a “man shower” thrown by his coworkers that night so I spent the evening at home with takeout and bad TV on the couch. At 11:30pm he came home from his shower and we began to get ready to go to bed.
Around 12:30 am I was in my closet getting ready for bed and remember saying to Doug, “oh shit, I peed on myself.” Doug reassured me it was normal to lose some bladder control at the end of pregnancy. After I got into bed there was another trickle, and another. And then a GUSH. I went back into the bathroom and sat on the toilet for a bit. I asked Doug to come in to help me evaluate the situation. After a few minutes it was clear what was going on. I was gushing fluid. I tried to put on a pad and get into bed but quickly soaked through the pad and needed to get up for a new one.
Doug called our doula, Amy and told her my water broke. She urged us to try and get some sleep as my labor could start any minute and we needed rest. I was convinced I would not go into labor anytime soon and began planning what we would do the next morning to speed my labor along. I kept soaking through pads and was not able to get much rest.
Around 1:30am, just as I was starting to drift off to sleep, my contractions started. I did not want to wake Doug yet so I tried to deal with them on my own. I did laundry. I had soaked my favorite sweatpants and in that moment had a crazy urge to make sure they were clean.
Around 3am Doug woke up to my moaning in the hallway and asked me what was wrong. “It hurts,” I said. “What are you doing?” he said. “Laundry” I said. I then urged him to go back to bed and get some sleep. We both got back into bed but I was in too much pain to stay there. I wanted to be on the toilet as I was still leaking fluid. The contractions felt like they were in my back and there was no break in between them. They were coming hard, right on top of each other. I insisted on taking a shower as I felt gross and sweaty. The shower felt great on my lower back, I must have stayed in there for at least thirty minutes.
When I got out of the shower Doug moved me onto the birth ball in the living room. We worked through my contractions on the ball for awhile and around 5am we called Amy to let her know what was happening. Doug put her on speakerphone so she could listen to my contractions. Amy coached me over the phone – teaching me to relax into the contractions by dropping my shoulders and jaw and making low moaning noises.
At that point I was so tired I wanted to get back into bed. While I was in bed Doug started working on my back with massages and hip squeezes, but I was in too much pain to stay in bed. So we went back into the bathroom this time with the birth ball. At this point, Doug says, my contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart and lasting for 1 minute.
Around 7am we called Amy again asking her to come over. She heard my contractions and convinced Doug to run a bath. We got into the bath together but that too did not last long- the hot water made me nauseous. From about 7am to 8:30 my contractions were getting more and more intense. They were now only two and a half minutes apart and lasting over a minute. At some point around then I also lost my mucus plug that Doug describes as looking like a slug or leech on the bathroom floor.
When Amy arrived I was completely naked on the birth ball moaning in pain from the intensity of my contractions. Amy took over for Doug by coaching and massaging me so he could finish packing for the hospital.
Around 9am Doug started making phone calls. First he called my sister who would then call my mother and father. Then he called his parents asking them to meet us at the hospital (they live around the corner) so they could park our car and take Maddy. After Doug was finished with his calls Amy and I emerged from the bathroom. I had somehow managed to get into a tank top and underwear. Amy was feeling concerned that we had to get out of TriBeCa due to a large street fare which could delay our travels. She could not tell how much time I had left in labor but still thought it best to start heading uptown.
As Doug was walking out the door to get our car I screamed, “I need to push!” Amy pulled Doug aside and quietly said to him, “we might be in more of a rush than I thought”.
Twenty minutes later Doug came back upstairs, he had navigated the street fair traffic and our car was double parked outside. I had managed to finish getting dressed including a big, dark pair of sunglasses that I had decided were necessary.
I was so scared of getting into the car. I did not think I could make it down stairs, through the lobby and out and into the car. It felt like the longest walk ever. Once in the car I was hanging over the back seat with Amy behind me so she could help me with the contractions. The whole forty-minute ride uptown Amy was telling me “do not push.” I could feel the baby starting to come down and all I wanted to do was push. I had a feeling once we got to the hospital it would not take very long at all.
When we pulled up to the hospital Doug’s father and brother were waiting to take the car from us. When we got to triage I remember them asking me what I was there for, and replying/screaming “I’m having a baby.” After signing a few pieces of paper we were shown to the labor and delivery room.
Once we got into the room it was instantly flooded with staff setting up for my delivery. They offered me a hospital gown but I quickly told them I had brought my own. I then asked Doug to put my sheets on the bed while Amy helped me to the bathroom to change into my special hot pink delivery gown.
Once I was on the bed a resident came and gave me an internal exam. She told me I was eight centimeters dilated, and everyone in the room was surprised and impressed that I had made it that far before coming to the hospital. At that point the room began to thin out, and a few minutes later my OB, Dr. Worth arrived.
My doctor checked me and I could tell she was a bit surprised. She said, “I don’t like to use the term fully dilated but I will say there is no cervix there and I can see the baby’s head. So, I am going to change into my scrubs because this baby is going to be born.”
I remember needing to push so badly that I told her, “if you don’t have time to put your scrubs on I am happy to replace your pants.” She reminded me the scrubs we for my baby’s safety, not her outfit’s.
When she returned she asked if we had brought oil for perineal massage as she did not have time to get her bottle. Doug handed her our bottle and we got started.
The pushing was hard. Very hard. Amy and Dr. Worth taught me how and where to push as well as how to relax my legs. As I was pushing Dr. Worth had me change positions quite a few times. I pushed on my back, on my side, and squatting over the back of the bed. She also had me push in between contractions to help bring the baby lower and lower. As I was pushing Dr. Worth would reach inside me and feel the baby, which was incredibly painful. In between pushes Doug gave me sips of coconut water while Amy wiped my face with a wet paper towel. Everyone in the room did an amazing job of encouraging and coaching me shouting, “come on Sara! So close! I can see her head!” At one point Dr. Worth had to turn the baby manually as she was coming out a tiny bit “sunny side up.” Once she was turned properly it did not take much longer to get her head out. When her head was finally out Dr. Worth told me to stop pushing, look at Doug and do the birthday candle breathing again so she could move the baby’s shoulders out slowly. After her shoulders the rest of her slipped out quickly and was followed by a huge release of blood and fluid. Immediately I had an enormous sense of relief and I told the room, “I haven’t felt this good in months!”
They tossed the baby onto my chest and her eyes met mine immediately. I looked down at her and said, “Hi.” It was a surreal and emotional moment to finally meet the person who I had been sharing a body with for the past 38 weeks.
While Doug and Hermione were both crying. I was simply stunned and overwhelmed with love and admiration for my beautiful baby girl.
In the weeks since when people have asked me about my birth experience I have simply answered, “It was awesome. The most challenging and painful experience of my life, but…” then I look in my daughter’s eyes… “awesome!”