Since today is Alexandra's birthday, what better time to share the ultimate workout, the story of her birth?
I wrote this April 23rd, 2010:
Friday the 16th we went to our weekly OB appt at 4:15pm where, due to some cramping with contractions that morning, we decided to go ahead and get my membranes swept. She said she gave it 48-72 hours. An hour after we got home, I started getting pretty intense contractions, strong enough to make that morning's cramping seem laughable. We chalked it up, at first, to the typical cramping side effects caused by the membrane sweeping, and we used them to our advantage and practiced our Bradley Method labor relaxations. When they continued well past 9pm, we realized labor was underway. We were too excited to be sleepy but went to bed around midnight. I didn't really sleep. Finally at 4am I told Todd I needed a hot bath, and it was time to start laboring.
At this point my contractions were about 45 seconds each, 6 minutes apart. They required focus and relaxed breathing, and they were painful but they were also very manageable. I called my mom since the time difference made it a little less jarring, and we talked excitedly through several contractions before I told her I needed to concentrate. Awhile later I called my dad, around 5:30am.
We labored at home for ten hours. Todd... Todd was my knight, my hero, and just thinking about all he did makes me want to cry. He was at my side the entire time, and if he was off doing something like eating, peeing, packing our bags, the moment he heard me start my laboring sounds, he was there in an instant, calling out "I'm right here, baby, you're doing great. I'm right here." We labored in bed and standing, Todd holding me and supporting my full weight as he held me from behind. His body provided excellent counter pressure for my back, which had begun to ache with each contraction.
I took several baths, and we walked around the house, laboring against the pool table, in each others' arms, and on the bed. There was a moment where Todd was holding me, swaying back and forth with me to some natural rhythm we found, and it was such a powerful, sexual, sensual and romantic moment. It's so hard to explain, but it was just beautiful. We were having the experience we had wanted, home, the birds chirping outside our bedroom, the sun filtering in with a hazy glow through our blinds, the comfort of our own bed and the familiar creaking of our old wood floorboards underfoot. And it was just Todd and me, the two people who brought this little buddy into existence, the only two people who truly knew this little being already.
As the afternoon went on my contractions kept rolling in harder and faster, and at this point I was full on moaning, loud and low, to get past the pain. I always thought it was weird in birth videos when the women would do this but now, I completely understand. It really, really helps. Around 2pm we headed to the hospital. At this point my contractions were 90 seconds each, 3 minutes apart, and I would frequently, much too frequently, experience double peak contractions which, for those who know, are just mind blowing. The pain was already creeping up towards the Excruciating end of the spectrum, and I was starting to doubt my ability to achieve a natural birth. I didn't think I could handle much more, but it had been so long, ten hours, surely I was closing in on transition.
We got to the hospital and my father was there waiting to drive the car to the parking lot and since my contractions hurt far less on my feet, we walked up to labor and delivery, and I declined the wheel chair. Once at the check in station, I experienced rolling waves of contractions but now they were much shorter, most likely due to the adrenalin of the trip and walking. Adrenalin slows down labor (so always stay relaxed, ladies). Our doctor, Dr. Valenzuela, was on call and sure enough, after Todd laughed, she pulled open the door behind the check in station with a big grin, saying "I thought I heard Todd's laugh!!" and it was a happy moment. She was on call and would be there for our birth. We proudly announced that we were in labor and had been at it since 4am (though honestly, it had started around 6pm Friday). Everyone was extremely impressed, and after what seemed like an eternity of ridiculous questions, I was taken back to get checked.
Lying there, getting strapped to the monitors without any pillows to support my aching, contracting belly, was absolutely horrible. There were other women there but none who had labored the length we had, and I was the only one crying out. Dr. V came in and checked me.
I was a four. A sorrowful, gut-wrenching, crushing 4 centimeters. I had been at 3 almost 24 hours earlier, and it had taken me all that time to progress one solitary centimeter. Needless to say this did absolutely nothing for my morale, and I started to seriously doubt everything. I miserably thought to myself how self doubt and surrender is supposed to be an emotional sign post of transition (starts around 7cm), not of a meager 4cm.
Todd did his best to boost my spirits, talking about how natural alignment plateau can hold on for hours but can give in just one, and to not look at all those hours as a waste. My body was doing what it had to do to get ready for little buddy, and we had to do the same. Oh, I just... I just cannot explain how amazing he was. My heart fills with this yearning, stretching love when I think about how valiant he was during this whole experience.
I was strapped to the monitors again and I really have to reiterate just how excruciating this is when you're going natural. You must lie in a certain way, and must stay there for 20 minutes each time. The Doctor came in and noted how the baby's heartbeat wasn't accelerating/decelerating properly with the contractions, and wanted to put me on an IV of fluids. For Bradley this is a bad sign, because it sets you up for more and more interventions, not to mention it keeps me tied down with the IV. Todd asked for ten minutes to just see if the baby did what he/she had to do without the IV and the doctor and he actually had a bit of a super-mild bickering over it. And what do you know? After ten minutes, the baby did its job and the heart rate started it's ups and dips as needed. After the agonizing 20 minutes were up, we were able to move around.
So we walked around the maternity ward just once, and I had a few contractions. Then we returned to the room and labored some more. This period of time went by SO fast which is a blessing, but another five hours went by and the pain just kept spiking and spiking. I had lost my super mellow labor that I had had at home, where the pain had been horrible but manageable. Now I could barely keep my claws into my labor, it was slipping away from me so fast. The pain was now horrible. I mean, just horrible. I couldn't keep my breathing under control, I couldn't relax my body, my labor was in control of me instead of the other way around. Todd urged me on, telling me how strong I was, how natural alignment plateau can change in an instant, and how we had SO many Bradley techniques to try. But... I wanted to give up. I didn't want IV narcotics and I kept denying them and the epidural but... it was just overwhelming me. But Todd was right, we had so much to try: thumb sucking, nipple stimulation (hey hey hey), lots and lots of walking.
Todd got me into the shower to use the heat as a pain reliever, and it felt nice but it was nothing like what some women have described as far as relief. But at this point I was so squirmy in my labor at this point, the pain making me antsy and unable to settle into a position to let the contractions come and go. I tried squatting through my contractions with the hot water raining down on me, Todd there in his suit, holding me up and propping up my body with the strength of his legs. It helped, but then the cumbersome balance of my pregnant body made it difficult to maintain and I kept having to get up.
After the shower... I lost it completely. I'm not sure why but my contractions were suddenly a pain I had never experienced before, and I'd gone through painful jaw surgery at 17 where my jaw was completely cut through and re-positioned. This though... My God. I would not wish the pain of labor on my worst enemy, I really wouldn't. The nurses could see that what I was experiencing was much worse than it was for many other women, especially when they knew that I had labored so long, for 15 hours at this point and without drugs. I had not eaten since 9pm Friday night, had not truly slept since Thursday night, and I was completely depleted.
I was leaning over the hospital bed, on my tippy toes, half dressed, screaming through the contractions while also screaming "I cannot do this! I cannot do this anymore, please don't make me do this!" to my poor, poor husband. The nurse with us, who had done Bradley with her first child, was very understanding and very sweet, a silent presence of support. My poor man, my poor Todd, was obviously so conflicted. He knew how important this was for us but could see how the labor was just tearing me down.
So at 7pm, we decided to get the epidural. I was crying uncontrollably and apologizing repeatedly to Todd, while he whispered "it's ok, baby, it's ok" over and over. The staff wasn't sure why I was so apologetic, but I felt like I was letting Todd and little buddy down. I just couldn't do it anymore, though. It was an impossibility. This was such a horrible, heart breaking moment for us, and even though our parents came in to wish us well and everyone told me I was doing the right thing, it was just devastating. And I was exhausted, so utterly depleted of everything that to have this as the final blow was so gut wrenching. Todd was really broken up about it too and got emotional when he told me that he felt as if HE had let ME down, so we were both in a sort of pit of despair, each thinking we had failed the other.
But I got the rest I needed. I got a break from the pain, even though at first the epidural didn't work on my right side and got even worse when the anesthesiologist tried fixing it the first time. I even got to sleep about an hour. It was definitely the best thing we could have done, because it still took my body five hours to dilate completely. By now it was 1am on Sunday the 18th. I had labored since Friday the 16th and was finally at second stage.
The lights were all out, except for the closet light, and it was just the doctor, the nurse, Todd and me in our room which had finally become ours, had become our little nest. In near dark, we all chatted together while I pushed, letting the epidural wear off so that I could feel for delivering little buddy. But at this point the contractions were still undetectable which I was SO grateful for, since the monitor was registering them as rolling in one after another, at least one a minute. It was so wonderful, it was actually magical. We all talked about how we met our spouses, astrological signs, we made jokes and small talk, and it was like a cozy little slumber party in there. It took three hours to push the baby a few inches, but we were so thankful for that, because it made for an easy passage, nothing too fast that would have torn me horribly.
This was just such a wonderful, wonderful time, especially after the whole epidural ordeal. It was serene and delightful, it was what we wanted. So after three hours, baby was about ready to crown. It took those three hours to get little buddy past my pubic bone. I had NO idea it would take that long to go such a tiny distance but it was the best way to go, because like I said, super fast deliveries can just tear you to ribbons. So the epidural had completely worn off by now, much to my happiness, because I could finally feel my baby and could tell when I was pushing effectively. Crowning and having to sit there, breathing deeply and waiting before pushing was almost unbearable but nothing compared to the contractions.
Todd was all geared up to catch the baby, and Dr V had put him in his gown and booties (which he had on over his flip flops, lol), and his sterile gloves. He had to stand there with his hands clasped together, looking like a visiting professor or observing doctor, it was so cute. With every contraction I pushed with all my heart and soul, moaning or screaming loudly as I pushed to the pain, through the pain, like Dr V said. I was absolutely exhausted after pushing three hours, squatting sometimes, holding my own legs back, but man, when other ladies have written in their birth stories that they felt the urge to push and just couldn't hold back, now I know what that means! I had the rhythm down, was using moaning sounds.
Getting her head out was very difficult but after the labor, it didn't even register. I'd push 100 heads out before going through all that again. Anyways, after the baby's head, Todd was instructed by Dr. V to grab baby beneath the shoulders and pull little buddy right out and Todd did so with aplomb. We had our baby! For a fleeting moment, I saw the umbilical cord and thought wildly "OMG the baby's penis is blue!!" but then I realized, oh, wait, that's the cord. To see this little baby come out of me was wild, the WILDEST thing I've ever seen and WILL ever see until we give birth the next time. Todd pulled this big, long baby out of me and the Doctor said
"It's a girl!"
Todd and I latched eyes on each other, and stared, eyes wide and big grins on our faces... A girl? We had been sure, so convinced, all pregnancy long that little buddy was a boy, but little buddy was our little girl! WHAT! Todd pulled little girl to his chest, but since he is so tall (6'7") the Dr nervously told him to get closer to me so he wouldn't tug on the umbilical cord, lol. Todd also got to cut the cord, so all our wishes were met.
Alexandra James was born 4:27am on Sunday, April 18,2010. She was 9lbs and 21.5" with a full head of dark, dark hair and deep, stormy blue eyes. She is currently in her bouncy swing with a belly full of MY breastmilk that my body has miraculously made.
We are so utterly blessed, and so ferociously in love with her.
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