melody's birth story, part 5

After Jennifer and Teresa arrived, our birth team was complete. They hung back, leaving me and Chad alone most of the time. Teresa prepared smoothies with strawberries, banana, calcium citrate, and vitamin C powder. Jennifer continued to take vitals each 20 or 30 minutes.

After laboring in bed for awhile, I decided to try to bathtub. The hot water felt like heaven. I was immediately able to cope more efficiently. With each contraction I'd close my eyes, drop my head down to my chest, inhale through my nose, exhale through my open, loose lips, and completely fade away. The water decreased my pain by about 50%. I was happy. I felt on top of things. Teresa and Jennifer did many little things to make my surroundings comfortable. They rolled towels for my neck and head. They unscrewed all but one of the light bulbs in the bathroom, creating a dimly lit room. They spoke in hushed tones. I barely noticed these things, but looking back, I know they helped a lot.

Chad sat on the toilet seat the whole time I was in the tub. He timed my contractions, talked to me, read Psalm 19 (my favorite), prayed a little, and listened to me. Between contractions I felt fine. Every 30 minutes I would get out of the tub to pee. This was important to Jennifer. I tried my best to cooperate. Going to the toilet meant extra contractions in an unfamiliar place and position. A contraction would end and I'd practically jump out of the tub in order to avoid moving during the pain. I was surprised at my agility and strength. Those contractions are big motivators! I'd sit backward on the toilet, my arms crossed and resting on the tank lid, and my head laying on my arms.

Time passed very quickly. Each time I inquired, at least an entire hour had passed. As the hours clicked by, the intensity increased. I was not able to stay still during contractions. I began having irrational thoughts. I felt scared of the baby. I wondered if I wanted a baby at all. I felt trapped by the inevitability of the second stage of labor. At the same time, I wanted progress because I wanted it to be over. I started wondering how anyone chooses to have more than one baby. Then I thought about people who choose to have an epidural and I felt humbled. I decided I would never be judgmental of anyone for choosing pain relief again. For the first time the validity of their choices sunk in with full force. I never thought about drugs for myself. Maybe that is because there were no drugs available since we were at home. I don't know what my thought process would have been in a hospital. It was a non-issue at home though.

As things progressed I became restless, nervous and afraid. I was scared. I threw up while sitting on the toilet. Chad held a bowl for me while Teresa and Jennifer encouraged me; it meant progress. It was about 8:30 (about 7 hours after labor started) and I was in transition. After this my body switched gears. It felt like a race car, taking off as fast as possible. I was out of breath and hot. We all heard a popping sound. It was my water breaking, under water. Jennifer checked for discoloration, and found none, meaning there was no meconium in the amniotic fluid. This brought me relief because I knew the baby was okay.

With each contraction, my legs writhed back and forth, side to side. I could not relax or stay still. Chad tried to talk me through it all, but it didn't help. The water was claustrophobic and I needed to find a new place to be. I got out of the tub and sat on the toilet.

[During the birthing classes we were taught that with second stage, women loose their sense of modesty. I thought, "Nope. Not me. I won't." Wrong! I was naked as a jay bird and didn't even think about it. Later Chad said it was a little weird for him at first. He got over it quickly; especially after he thought about how many times Jennifer and Teresa attended labors. This was normal stuff for them.]

At this point the contractions became ultra intense. I made low guttural sounds with each exhale. During these sounds I'd rest my chin low on my chest. The sounds were like a humming or a low roar. I had not planned to make noise like this during my birth. I had read of others doing so, but it seemed weird to me. Once the time came, weirdness did not matter. The sounds helped me cope with the intensity, and that was all that mattered. At the beginning of my noise-making I looked at Chad and said, "Don't be scared." I didn't know how he'd respond. He encouraged me to do whatever in order to keep my bearings. Teresa reminding me to keep the sounds low, as to not strain my vocal cords. She would do it with me and I'd mimic her.

Soon we moved back to the bed. I stood next to it, leaning over the side. Chad sat on the bed, holding my hands with his head close to mine. I panicked at first because I didn't know how to cope with the pain in this new position. Everyone told me I was doing a great job. Teresa reminding me to breath. I tried, but felt unsuccessful. My legs and hips refused to relax; the pain in my inner thighs was the worst.

Jennifer checked me internally at this point. She was gentle, but it caused a horrific contraction anyway. I was dilated to 9.5 centimeters. Only a lip of the cervix remained. She described it as goo or melted butter. This meant I could start pushing and the baby would move down without swelling the cervix. I had a hard time comprehending these things in the midst of all the pain. The contractions were right on top of each other, only leaving 15 seconds breaks for rest. Each one felt like a semi truck barreling through my body. Relaxing was impossible. I stood by the bed, and rocked back and forth. I felt trapped and out of control. On the outside I was calm and relatively relaxed. Looking back I think I was trying really hard to preform for the others. I had had no idea performance anxiety would be part of my labor, but I wanted to do everything the right way so that Teresa and Chad would be proud of me. I was not concerned with Jennifer's perception, however. She had an anything-goes / whatever-it-takes attitude that put me at ease.

I felt no urge to push even though it was time to do so. This confused me because every birth story I'd heard / read told of a definite desire to push and a great relief when pushing commenced. Something held me back though. I think it was fear. Each time I'd think about the baby coming out of my body, I felt scared. It seemed so violent. Therefore, I remained beside the bed, rocking back and forth, not pushing. My body was ready, but my mind was not.


Rose said...

You are brave to re-tell this all. It was so dreadfully PAINFUL and you have such a clear recollection of the details. Amazing! As you know, I took my epidurals (2 of them) but still had to deal with break-through contractions as I remember the intense shaking and feeling like was going to lose it, etc. You are one strong woman is all I can say!

Hannah. said...

Wow! I don't know if I will be able to read part 6! Eleanor's birth is still fresh on my mind and body. I was hurting reading this part, especially about sitting on the toilet during contractions. I did a lot of that this time and it HURTS! You have such a way with words Bekah! You are a talented writer :)

Kristin said...

I have been waiting with great anticipation to read part 5! I must agree with Hannah that you have a beautiful way with words. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to the future installments! :)