My birth stories always start with days of waiting that feel years long. Trying to be patient. Trying to stay cheerful. Hyper-analyzing each twinge and contraction. Hoping for more pain. At last, at 15 days late, Doctor Ed arrived to give my comfortably unborn baby a little kick in the pants to get him coming.
It was Saturday, July 23, 2011, a sunny summer morning and I was ready to do whatever it would take to get that baby OUT! the doctor administered a prostaglandin gel and then left me to relax and see if it would “take.” Almost immediately (around 11:30) contractions started coming regularly. I was delighted! I felt excited each time I felt another one coming on. This really was labor and I would soon be holding my baby! I rested and moved and squatted the day away, just waiting and breathing. Before I knew it, it was late afternoon and I was ready to get in the birth pool. Everyone else was right outside the door eating a most delicious smelling dinner, but though I was hungry, I felt too queasy to eat anything. I thought this whole thing would soon be over and then I would eat. Mentally, I piled my imaginary plate high and savored the feeling of eating with no baby and no pregnancy hormones inside me.
Breath. Relax. The sun set. The kids were put to bed upstairs.
Soon midnight was approaching and it became apparent that the impossible was going to happen after all. I was now 16 days overdue and Esther and the new baby would share a birthday. I was actually happy about it; I like the 24th for a birthday much better than the 23rd. Dr. Ed broke my water, but nothing really changed.
At last I felt that it was time to push and the drama began. I was in the pool and tried several different positions—all very uncomfortable for Eli, who was letting me lean on him—but nothing seemed to be doing anything. Then I moved to the birth chair and Dr. Ed’s assistant, Paula, discovered that I had a cervical lip. She eased it out of the way, but suddenly it came back and pushing hurt in a way that it wasn’t supposed to. Dr. Ed moved me to the bed—to the same position I had been in when I had a cervical lip during Joshua’s delivery. The contractions were so strong and so painful in that position that I needed help from everyone to keep from losing it all together. I was only there for 20 minutes—or less even—but it felt like a brief eternity.
Suddenly Dr. Ed proclaimed with joy that the cervical lip was gone and I could try pushing again! I sat up and prepared to move back to the chair, but as I did, a wave of nausea washed over me along with the next contraction. As I retched over a bowl I knew I wasn’t going to be moving anywhere. With the following contraction I started pushing with all my might. “Urge to push” is an understatement. Everyone scurried around gathering chuck pads and preparing the bed for delivery.
What followed is the hardest ordeal I’ve ever gone through. Each push seemed half as effective as it should have been and it felt like the baby was dragging my cervix down with him or that I was pushing against some barrier. Mercifully the contractions were not right on top of each other and during one lull I asked my mother-in-law to pray for this new life that was struggling to begin. I think the whole thing was about two hours from the first “urge to push” until he was born at last.
In the end it was hunger that got him out. I still felt hungry—after all, I’d only eaten a quick breakfast and a small snack at lunch time and it was now the wee hours of a new day. All of a sudden, I was done being pregnant. I wanted the baby OUT so I could EAT! It was then that I began to push with a strength I didn’t even know I had. I stopped caring about tearing or pain and pushed until there was no more contraction to push with. And it worked! With a squish, his head was out! But the contraction was over and my momentum was gone. “Is he okay?” I asked, wondering if the cord was around his neck. But he was fine. “He’s just taking a little nap,” my mother in law assured me. And so I rested for an absurd moment. When the next contraction came, I finished the job. And now, months later, I am amazed that after all that pain and travail, the only memorable sensation is the feeling of deliverance and relief as the baby slithered out of me and into my arms.
The cord kept pulsing and Stephen and I rested, him on my tummy taking his first breaths. He slowly turned from grayish purple to a healthy pink. The first thing I noticed was his hands which seemed so big and manish! One of them wrapped around Eli’s finger with a grip that was very much alive.
[Humorous story here, for the strong of stomach: Dr. Ed asked Eli if he wanted to cut the cord, but he was stuck with me leaning on him. So Eli's mom did the honors. As she poised to make the cut, Dr. Ed mentioned that sometimes it can "spurt." Immediately afterward, blood spattered like an R rated movie! There were drops on Eli's hands and even on his glasses! I thought it was funny.]
It was almost 2:00 in the morning by this time and everyone was bleary-eyed as they cleaned up and the weighing and measuring and first outfit ritual began. He was 8 pounds 6 ounces—not nearly big enough for all the work it was getting him out! I was surprised to find out that I hadn’t torn after all.
He nursed and I ate (at last!). I took a shower, everyone left, and we went to sleep.
(which happens to be the beginning)