“Ok. It looks like you’re 5 centimeters. So we’ll have you stay.”
I couldn’t believe it. After 3 full days of contractions we were finally staying. Who knew how long we would wait to get to the actual delivery. Who knew if labor would continue to progress. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. I was finally here and the birth of my daughter was closer than it had ever been. I could almost see her.
But blocking the way was the inevitable and mysterious labor. I could not know what was ahead of me.
Nurses came in and out.
“You’re managing your contractions very well. Keep up that breathing.”
I knew that I had to breathe for Clare. I knew that I had to distract myself from the “pain” and focus. Deep breathing was the only way I could do that.
I had a lot of time to get used to contractions. But I must say that the first few days I was fighting the great pull that wrapped from my lower back around to my stomach. I tensed my entire body as the swells of muscle strain came and went.
Sometime on Sunday I realized what I had to do.
The best advice I got about labor was this: focus on your butt.
Don’t ask me why but as soon as I did that and let my body give way to the contractions I started to open up.
The news soon spread around Labor and Delivery that I wanted to give birth naturally – sans drugs.
“You can do it. It’s about pain management.” the nurses would say.
They led us into a special room where they brought me labor balls and a labor stool (had never heard of that and certainly didn’t know how to use one). Everyone seemed to be rooting for me…Except the doctors.
Soon all the residents and doctors came in to convince me about the benefits of having an epidural or a narcotic. The anesthesiologist snuck in without invitation and told me about every single pain reliever they had. The only words I could hear as I breathed through three contractions were, “You’ll feel no pain…blah, blah, blah…side effects.”
Let me say now that this was MY birth choice. Andrew and I had prayed for a drug free birth for 9 months and though we felt it was the best option for us and our family we were not going to be prideful and stubborn about it. If I needed help…I would take it.
It’s hard enough to deliver a baby let alone try to fight off doctors telling you that you want something you don’t.
Did I say I loved the nurses. Oh…I loved the nurses. They were so supportive and wonderful.
And then there was Andrew. What a miracle of a person. All the nurses thought he was a birth coach. An hour before we went to the hospital he was himself and the minute we entered that delivery room he was a birth machine. With each pang I pulled in close to my husband and squeezed his hand as he counted again and again and again.
“You’re doing great Valerie. You can do this. Almost there.”
But after an hour I had only dilated 1 and half centimeters, which evidently wasn’t enough. I thought I was doing great. Compared to the speed labor HAD been progressing. I thought I was moving right along.
So they broke my water, which was awesome. No seriously. It was so nice and warm and it gave each contraction a different feeling than just the pulling and pushing pain.
Suddenly my contractions got closer together. I hardly had time to brace myself. I began shaking and had to vocalize while urgent and heartbreaking intensity washed over me.
But the doctors were convinced that I must have a pitocin drip, which I knew would make labor even more unbearable.
I felt I had no choice, that the doctors were forcing me to do something I didn’t need and didn’t want to do…again…
But the nurses…did I mention I love nurses?…bought me an hour.
I at this point, though thankful, thought I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make it.
I needed something to get through. I wanted just a little something to dull the burning of my uterus as it tightened my whole body.
The nurses said I should think about it. “We think you can make it Valerie. And the meds will just make you feel weird. They won’t make labor less painful.”
They left silently and the room seemed to close in around me and Andrew, the only two people in the world. The lights went dim and I no longer existed in the room, only his hand and the steady voice counting and counting as a gentle reminder of this finite life – nothing lasts forever.
I have no idea how long we were there.
Then BOOOM! The nurses were back. The doctors crowded in the room. The lights were blinding now as were the contractions. Instantly I knew what I had to do.
As each contraction came I felt myself open. I heard myself scream. Even Andrew was gone now. All I could see was the side of the bed which I clutched as if it were a piece of drift wood in the wide ocean.
“She’s at ten but you should expect to push for an hour or two.” I heard them say to Andrew.
Ignoring this jibberish I said, “Andrew, is there something down there? Could you look?”
“Uuuummm…” he shook with trepidation and confusion. I could tell he was as nervous as I.
“Whoa! That’s the head! Valerie DON’T PUSH!”
The doctors flipped me over and pulled my legs high and close.
One last enormous scream and then my blindness was gone and a tunnel of light came to me. Her name was Clare Vienne. A “bright life” shining to me from the deep dark of the past 3 days. And there, in the deafening excitement I was surprised by the beauty of birth, by the beauty of her who was now in my arms.
to be continued…