After laboring beside the bed for awhile, Jennifer could tell the baby was close to being born. She suggested I move the to the love seat couch in our room. Pillows surrounded me and chux pads were everywhere. My hair had been up in a messy ponytail for hours. It slipped out and fell around my neck and face. I was irritated and barked for someone to put it back up. Chad attempted, but didn't do a good job. It was still loose and threatened to fall down. In one of the 15 second breaks between contractions, I slung it on top of my head and forcefully wrapped the rubber band around it.
Chad perched on the wide arm of the couch next to me. He held a cool washcloth to my face, neck and chest. Teresa sat on the floor, directly in front of me. She rubbed my feet and lower legs to ward off cramping. I felt on the verge of a food cramp several times. I thought I'd completely loose it if a cramp came. Apple juice ice cubes were put into my mouth. "Try to eat these. They will help with the cramps." They had calcium citrate and vitamin C. They were refreshing; I crunched them quickly between contractions.
The contractions became so intense that I was not able to relax my lower body at all. I propped my feet up on Teresa's legs and she talked me through them. I could tell my body was ready to push, but something held me back. I was still afraid. Also, I had absolutely no urge. I kept waiting to "want" to push. The contractions made my legs feel like they would twist off at the hips. I looked into Jennifer's face, silently asking her with my eyes, "Is this normal? Is everything okay?" Her demeanor remained calm and normal. Her eyes responded, also silently, "Yes. You are fine. Do not be scared." This silent communication is one of the sweetest memories of my labor. Without it, I would have been paralyzed with fear, pain, and dread. Because I knew and trusted Jennifer, I believed everything that was happening was normal, despite the incredible intensity and mind boggling pain.
Finally Jennifer suggested for me to feel inside and touch the baby's head. I don't remember if I thought it a weird or gross thing to do. I responded like a robot and did it. I felt a warm and firm surface less than an inch from the outside world. I had no sweet thoughts regarding having just touched my baby's head for the first time. Things were too hard for awe. My only thought was objective and practical, "If the baby is this close, then pushing will make it all be over sooner." I decided to start pushing even though I still had no urge to do so. It was about 10:00pm.
Jennifer brought a wooden birth stool from her car. It was made of two skinny pieces of wood which created a v-shaped 90º angle. It was only 12 inches tall. I sat on it and leaned against the front of the couch. Chad sat on the couch directly behind me with his legs on either side of me. I rested my arms on his knees; a very comfortable position. When a contraction began, I'd take three of four slow, long, deep, abdominal breaths. On the last one I'd hold my breath, curl forward, and push with all my might. My entire upper body remained relaxed in the midst of pushing. My lips were loose like a camel's and my arms dangled at my sides. All my strength and power was centered on pushing the baby out. I tilted my pelvis up to complete the curled position. We'd been taught that the birth canal is the shortest in this position. It took a few times to get everything right. After awhile I was pushing in a full squat. At the end of each push, I'd sit on the birth stool again and fall into Chad's arms. It was a comfort and relief each time I felt his chest behind me.
After 25 minutes of pushing someone said, "Get a mirror." I had no desire to see what was happening, but I obeyed like a robot again, and looked down to see half the baby's head was out. I felt no ring of fire that so many people describe during crowing. With the next push, the rest of the head came out. Again I looked in the mirror. I saw a gray colored head with lots of dark hair. I was not able to see the face because it was facing down. The baby tumbled out of me with the next contraction / push. Chad says that I hollered loudly for a long time after she was out. I don't remember making any noise.
The baby immediately pooped a bunch of meconium. Jennifer wiped her down and handed her to me in one swift motion. A blanket was placed over the baby for warmth. Chad was still behind me looking down at her with awe. He said something like, "Wow. Hi baby." I felt nothing but relief. Relief. Relief. Relief. There was no joy. No happiness. No tears. Only pure relief. Relief that it was over and that the baby was healthy. The first thing I noticed about her body were her ears. They were both bunched up into two squishy balls of red flesh. I was slightly taken aback, then immediately thought, "Oh well, at least she is whole and healthy. We can deal with weird ears." It turned out there were that way because of the birth. Within five minutes they were flat and perfect.
Chad cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. He was surprised at the toughness of it. He said it was like cutting a garden hose. Soon the placenta came. The contraction that delivered the placenta was mild compared to the previous ones. My whole body trembled uncontrollably and I was chilled. Someone covered me with a quilt. The warmth of the quilt was the first sensation of comfort and sanity I felt after the birth. Rational thoughts began popping into my head. "Is it a boy or girl?" I repeated this question several times. We expected to have a girl because of an ultrasound prediction, but I still wondered. Finally Teresa said, "Why don't you look and see?" I was annoyed by this; I didn't want to look for myself, I just wanted to know. When I pulled the blanket back I saw puffy red girl parts. The ultrasound had been correct. I smiled and joy begin to seep from my heart to the rest of my being. I had a baby girl.
Her coloring was grayish so we gave her oxygen by placing a tube near her nose. Soon she was pink and noisy. Her sounds were high pitched and girlie. She had been born at 10:30, ten and a half hours after my first strong contraction.
A few minutes after the birth I asked if I had torn. I felt no pain so I was unsure. Jennifer informed me that I had. After holding the baby for awhile I gave her to Chad and got onto the bed. Jennifer covered a large hardback dictionary with padding and slid it under me. I found this humorous. She gave me several shots of local anesthetic; only a couple of them hurt. In that moment my pain tolerance was very high because of the recent memory of birth. I said something like, "You could rip my arm off and I wouldn't blink." I received 7 stitches for a second degree tear. I was disappointed that I had torn, but relieved and grateful that my baby was strong and healthy.
After the stitches were complete, I attempted to eat some Lipton chicken noodle soup. It did not taste good, so I set it aside. Jennifer measured and weighed the baby. She was 7 pounds, 14 ounces and 20 inches long. After this the baby and I took an herb bath. It seemed appropriate since we had spent so much time in the water during the labor. As the baby and I were in the tub, Jennifer lit three candles and turned off the lights. Chad resumed his place on the toilet seat and Jennifer left us alone. The baby's eyes opened wide in the dark room. She floated like a buoy and relaxed in the warm water. Chad and I watched her in awe and decided to name her Melody Raine.
Jennifer and Teresa left at 3:00am, about 12 hours after they arrived. Chad and I slept about 20 minutes at a time that night. Melody was tiny, laying between our two pillows. She was wrapped in a blanket with a hat on her small head. She made squeaky, chirping sounds during her first sleep in this world.