“That only happens in the movies!” Birth Story: Part 1

I need to preface this by saying it might not be 100% accurate. It’s all a blur. There are parts I don’t remember because of trauma, exhaustion, or drugs. I’m breaking the story down into three parts: home, delivery room, and surgery.

The one thing we heard over and over again in childbirth classes was how boring childbirth was compared to birth in the movies – there are no big gushes of water, no screaming, no mad rushes to the hospital, no alarms going off…

Ha.

My water broke with a gush just before midnight on June 29th. I was almost asleep when I felt a pop. I stood up and found a puddle at my feet. I waddled to the bathroom, pants soaked to my toes, leaving a trail behind me which my cat licked up. Cats are disgusting. After waking The Daddy, hugging each other excitedly (“this is it!”), and cleaning up, I had two hours of rest before regular contractions started.

We labored at home for over 30 hours. The first 26 or so were amazing. The Daddy filled the birth pool, we called our birth team, everyone was excited! The house was full of love and anticipation. We talked, laughed, ordered pizza, and when I had difficult contractions, the mood effortlessly  switched to calm and supportive. My doula and midwife joked that I was like the women in the birth videos and that I made it look easy. I felt proud and empowered. At one point, I sneezed at the peak of a contraction. It was excruciating – I pulled a muscle and my side spasmed during contractions for hours – but we laughed, because really, sneezing during a contraction is kind of absurd.

In the final hours, we were shaken. I was passing out in the pool between contractions. My cervix stalled at six centimeters for what felt like hours (it may have been; I don’t know) and there were stretches of time when contractions were three on top of each other with a thirty second break and then three more. They went from having a slow climb with one peak to happening quickly with two peaks – one hard slam in my rectum followed by one stab to my cervix a few seconds later. My cervix swelled. My midwife massaged it during contractions to break up the scar tissue that neither of us knew I’d had. Breathing through contractions didn’t work for that level of pain. The only relief was screaming – LOUD – like I was being attacked. The faces around me started to change; even through the pain and altered state, I saw it and tried to reassure them during the brief moments between contractions that it was ok, that screaming helped me through. Blood sprayed on the walls and dresser. Things were wrong and that was starting to sink in.

Baby had enough. Her heart rate dropped drastically when I changed to the one position that made labor bearable and took pressure off of my cervix. My midwife said the words I didn’t know I’d been waiting to hear: “You know we don’t have to stay here.”

Labor started at 11:45 Friday evening. At 6am Sunday morning, we transferred to the hospital. The Daddy and our doula packed a bag, I got dressed between contractions. Our midwife’s assistant, who’d been absent until that moment, helped pack their supplies and stayed at the house to get the bedroom in order for our eventual return home. Our midwife tried to keep things calm as urgency and anxiety grew with the realization that things were about to change.

I decided only the midwife would come with us. She needed to hand over our prenatal and labor records but what I really wanted was to be alone in a room with The Daddy and a doctor so it all could be over. My birth team was great – I loved what they all had to offer us at home – but things were changing and I was having trouble grasping that change. Divorcing myself from the hours at home felt necessary. Nonetheless, getting into the car and leaving half of the birth team behind to be replaced with doctors and nurses was hard.

The drive to the hospital was surreal. It was still dark as we raced to the hospital in the fog, hazard lights on, sailing past traffic lights and stop signs. We made it there safely and in record time, and we began phase two…

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