this week i’ve been telling the story of the natural birth of my first child. if you’ve missed the last few days, start with the bizarre preface, then part 1 – the last to know, part 2 – maybe i should’ve tipped him more, and part 3 – a family affair.
following kelleigh’s advice had definitely made a difference, i could feel it.
kel and dad left to get some dinner and meet up with jared and caris, and my midwife, leanna, came back to check if i was ripe and ready to push. after spending hours dilated to about 6 cm, i was finally at a 10! i zeroed in my focus on the real work of getting this baby out.
as i was gearing up with a few “practice pushes,” the room phone rang. i don’t remember it at all, but lee picked it up and hung up immediately. we found out later that our friends lyndi & wes had called the hospital to check on where we were, and someone had transferred the call to our labor & delivery room! evidently, lee had inadvertently left the line open, and they got to hear a few moments of serious coaching before they figured out what had happened and hung up.
i proceeded to push in every conceivable position for three hours. squatting, sitting, lunging, lying back, hanging on the bar, on all fours…at one point i was trying to gain leverage and power by pulling on a sheet (or towel?) that was anchored only by our sweet, petite nurse on the other end! (who, by the way, was with us the whole day and stayed hours after her shift to be there until graham was born. chelsea, you were awesome!)
leanna was wonderful, as well, and guided me through each set of pushes and positions with soft but assertive instructions. and all the while, the perfectionist in me was seeking constructive feedback. “am I pushing the way you want me to?” i repeated several times, as everyone else laughed at me for even asking as i bounced from position to position and refused to rest through any contractions. i was focused!
after about forty minutes of pushing, the top of his head made an appearance, but he stayed there for another two plus hours. leanna told me later that she thought he was going to come out sunny-side-up by the stubborn way he was resisting my pushing. it turns out he just had his head cocked to one side. but leanna never even hinted that i might not be able to deliver him naturally. one of the many reasons we are thankful that she attended graham’s birth.
so i pushed, and pushed, and pushed. but i didn’t feel tired. i was actually more energized as time went on and i got more efficient at pushing thanks to pointers from my team. both lee and i were grateful to have our doula macy there to support me physically with water and cool rags and bracing so that he could just be with me as emotional, mental, and spiritual support.
leanna must’ve thought i needed some motivation after a couple of hours, because she suggested they bring out the mirror so i could see how much graham was moving forward with each set of pushes (two steps forward, one step back).
now, i already knew the mirror was available to me, but had decided that i didn’t want to look. i could touch his head, i knew he was there. i was trying to protect my mental resolve. i figured i’d be fine managing the discomfort if i could concentrate on the task, but if i saw the process it would look like it hurt, and so i would feel pain. in the end, i couldn’t keep my eyes open and push, anyway. all i saw for a brief moment in the darkened room was the unidentifiable mess of body parts that is childbirth.
i’m glad this was my first experience with labor. with nothing to compare it to, i never got worried that it was taking too long or i was having to try too hard. i was just doing what i had to do, moment by moment. time stood still. leanna commented more than once that he was really making me work for it, but i didn’t think much of it at the time. lee (rightly so) was more concerned about graham, being cramped in the birth canal, than me. he told me later, “you were an animal, i knew you’d be fine. i just wanted him out of there.”
chelsea cheerfully pointed out how my belly was deflating as the baby moved down. all five of us were staring at my abdomen when my son gave me one last swift kick to the gut. we all gasped in surprise, and i savored what i knew was the last time i’d feel the familiar jab of his heel in my ribs from the inside.
by this time lee’s family had arrived and we had a small crowd pacing impatiently in the hall and cheering graham on in his epic exodus. but inside the room, we were oblivious to anything but the crazy ride we were on. the shakes had become uncontrollable, and started affecting my arms as well as my legs. at one point, my right hand shot out and smacked lee hard on the chest. the bewilderment on his face reflected my shock as i apologized with a feeble, “um, I didn’t mean to do that.”
each set of pushes now felt like it should be the last. for at least three surges in a row, i could hear the excitement in the voices of those who could see him emerging, and the stretching i felt around his head had reached the “ring of fire” point. i turned to lee and whispered, “pray!” to which he answered emphatically, “i am.” everything just felt like this is it!
and then it was. i heard leanna say, “okay, mama, reach down and take your baby.” my hands eagerly sought my son as i blindly grasped at his slippery head and shoulders. i prayed that hands much steadier than mine were spotting me as he slid out of my womb and into my arms.
9:21 pm. he cried out loud and clear right away – which brought a rush of emotion for me and collective whoop from the eavesdroppers outside the door. (i’m sure their celebrating was joined by a heavenly cheer, as well.)
someone guided him onto my stomach, and we lay there, finally skin-to-skin. bon iver played softly in the background as i gasped over and over, “oh, baby! oh, baby!”
kelleigh snuck back in to take graham’s first photos, and i held him close as several sets of skilled hands wiped him down, checked him out, and cleaned me up (no stitches needed!). when the umbilical cord finished pulsing, lee had the honor of separating mama and baby (without passing out!). i put up with a few more contractions until i delivered the placenta and we were left alone for a few minutes (at last!).
and then we were a family of three.
i’ll wrap up tomorrow with part 5 of graham’s birth story. the final installment offers all the gory glory that follows such a sacred yet corporeal event.