So all along I’ve been promising myself I’d finish writing Sadie’s birth story before she turns one, and looks like I’m just narrowly making it: she’ll be one in about 12 hours. So here, without further ado, is the conclusion to my overly long and poorly remembered birth story!
Upon arrival at the birth center, I found out I had succeeded in getting through all of early and a lot of of active labor at home, with only my husband and mom for support. I’d known that it had been a long night, but I was still pleasantly surprised when the midwife told me I was 8 cm dilated.
My water still hadn’t broken, though, so they told me they’d need to break it to check for meconium. I tried not to wince as Phary, the midwife, pulled out a rather ominous-looking white plastic device with a pointy end that was destined for my nether regions. I thankfully felt nothing as she broke my water; a moment later I felt a warm gush and said to her shakily, “funny, I always imagined it would be cold…” At the same time, I realized gratefully that the other midwife, Mary Lou, had started running the water in the big, luxurious tub in the adjoining bathroom. I waited for the tub to fill, trying to find the most comfortable position in this new environment. I got on all fours, grasping onto the big fancy headboard for support while Michael applied pressure to my lower back and hips. Each contraction felt more intense than the last; each break in between was more blessedly welcome. Finally when the tub was full and ready, I lowered my unwieldy, aching body into the water.
Phary brought me a pillow, which I leaned onto while she poured warm water down my back. When a contraction would hit, Michael and Phary held my hands while I fought my way through it.
Not long after I got in the tub (I think? Time is fuzzy at this point!), our doula, Keela, arrived, much to my relief. She immediately set to work trying to help me relax. For the next 45 minutes or so, I worked my way through various positions and techniques in the tub to get through each contraction.
Between contractions, I felt like I was floating. My consciousness was gradually moving back to a dark place in the back of my skull where all that mattered was the feelings rolling through my body. The specifics at this point all blur together. I know at one point Phary told me I was almost fully dilated except for a small “lip” of my cervix, and told me she was going to put her finger inside and wanted me to “push it out.” My husband got a kick out of that. After that, I remember it was time to push. When a contraction hit, I’d like to say that I breathed deeply, went inward and rode the wave of each surge with serenity and focus, but that wouldn’t be true. I screamed when I pushed. Oh, did I scream! I was like a petulant child, kicking and fighting, arching my back and clenching my jaw with each one. They would tell me to push and I’d howl things like, “I CAN’T!” And yet after it passed, I’d apologize for being “such a jerk.” I remember feeling like the pain had taken over my body and I just needed to get away, out of my body. After about 45 minutes in the tub, the midwives decided it would be best if I got out and pushed in bed instead, so out I went. Apparently they tried to move me into different positions for pushing, but the only way I was comfortable was on my back. (The doula-in-training in me is appalled now!) I remember pushing was so, so hard. At this point I was just so tired and so ready to be done. Clearly the exhaustion was taking its toll because at one point I remember they gave me an oxygen mask. After about ten minutes of pushing in the bed, though, they told me they could see her head, with lots of dark hair! Someone told me to reach down and feel her, so I did. I remember thinking, “whoa, her head is so squishy!” (Not “whoa, what a beautiful moment,” or “whoa, my baby’s almost here,” but…”squishy!”) I kept pushing for what felt like either an eternity or a split second but what I know now to have been about ten more minutes. I felt the proverbial ring of fire, which felt exactly how it sounds, but at that point I didn’t even care. I remember reaching the point where I felt like I’d hit a wall. I knew I simply couldn’t go on any more. I reached down deep inside, somewhere primal and wordless, and pulled out another push. I pushed out of frustration, out of spite, with what felt like the last ounces of energy left in me.
And out she came.
As soon as her head was out, I gasped with relief. The rest of her body came out quickly and easily, like an afterthought. I remember saying to everyone, “wow, it really does feel better immediately after!” And there she was: this tiny, slippery, lavender creature, real and alive and solid on my chest.
She was only there a few seconds before they took her to check her; she hadn’t made any noise yet and they wanted to make sure she was okay. There were a few tense moments before I heard her squeak, and then she was returned to me, rapidly getting pinker and wearing a funny little hat. She nestled in between my breasts and I looked at her and said “hi, baby.” There was a flurry of activity around me, midwives talking and cleaning, all of us laughing nervous, relieved laughter. My husband got in bed next to me and I turned to him and said, “what do you think? Is she Sadie?” He looked at her and back at me and said yes.
After that was phone calls, family arriving, breastfeeding lessons. Sadie was weighed, measured, swaddled, and ogled.
I remember feeling giddy and giggly, like all the intensity and hard work of the last 12 hours had been a dream I had just woken up from. All that divine post-birth oxytocin was working its magic. Everything was sweet and hazy and strange and blissful. The midwives informed me I hadn’t torn at all. Keela went and got us sandwiches. Countless cell phone pictures were taken. Our little baby burrito met her aunt, three grandmothers, and two grandfathers all in a span of her first couple hours.
And then, only a few hours later, we got to pack up and go home. We’d arrived in noise and chaos and urgency, but we left quietly, tentatively and peacefully. Our little family got home, exhausted and bewildered and fifty percent larger than when we’d left that morning.
…and that’s how it all began.