Now we come to the part of my labor which was not so light, where instead of feeling grounded and present I felt like I was falling apart at the seams. The contractions were very intense now, and close together. I felt like I was breaking, and couldn’t hold it together. I just wanted to cry. I needed far more support from Bryan and Shell than I had needed with my first labor. I tried to push with contractions, but still didn’t feel like anything was happening. At this point the physical pain seemed unbearable, but looking back (and I think I recognized this a little bit in the moment as well), even with as intense as the physical pain was the real struggle was with my psyche…it was emotional.
I felt weak, scared and tired. I didn’t feel like “one tough mamma.” Shell kept saying, “you’re so strong.” But, I didn’t believe her, I couldn’t believe her. I didn’t feel strong. I felt weak, in fact I felt all of the weaknesses and inadequacies that I’d wrestled with ever since becoming a mother two years ago come rushing over me. I felt like I couldn’t do it… and so I couldn’t. I didn’t really want to push her out. I was scared of feeling “that pain” again. I was scared of bleeding too much (as I had with Thaddeus). I was scared that she would be just as difficult as Thad was and scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle having two kids. I was scared that the pain was going to continue forever and just wanted it to be over, but I didn’t want to go through the only door that would make the pain stop.
Finally, I muttered out something about feeling discouraged. Shell decided to do an internal to see what was going on. I remember her putting her fingers against my coccyx on the inside and telling me that was where the baby needed to go, that I needed to push the baby into that space. I knew she was right and I tried to do what she was asking, but it was a half hearted attempt. As soon as she had touched that area I was flooded with the muscle memory of Thad’s birth, I remembered that spot and the pain it took to push Thad past it (Thad had gotten stuck at my coccyx since it hadn’t moved out of the way like it should have, Shell had to pull it out of the way and we are pretty sure I either broke or bruised it during that labor). The memory of that felt so tangible and I couldn’t bring myself to push past it.
It was at this point that Shell suggested we do something she called “the rotisserie” and took a moment to describe it to us. Basically the laboring women lays on her back for a contraction or two pushing her lower back into the floor then turns to lay on her side with her top leg bent and bottom leg relatively stretched out for a contraction or two and then on hands and knees for a contraction or two and then on the other side for a contraction or two and then back to her back for a contraction or two.
We did two rotations this way. I have never known pain like that. It was beyond intense, it was unbearable. I remember kind of hating Shell in that moment for making me do this. Normally I deal with contractions with a fair amount of movement so having to be in one position the whole contraction was excruciating and the fact that most of those positions were not comfortable positions for me made it extra hard.
During my last rotation Shell turned the water on in the bath and started filling it up, I can’t really explain the feeling I felt when I heard that tub turn on. On the one hand I was sort of ecstatic thinking that the end of the rotisserie must be soon and imagining how nice the water would feel. I spent almost all of my labor with Thad in the tub and felt such relief from that. Earlier in labor the tub had come up – I think my sister asked if I was going to use it – and I hesitated and didn’t really know how to answer. Shell said something about how it seemed I wanted to see which came first if I reached my breaking point or if the baby came. I remember thinking she was exactly right.
As I did that rotisserie and heard the tub filling up I knew I had reached my breaking point and it was time for the tub – really I felt like I had reached my breaking point long before this and was just so far past the breaking point as to be completely desperate by this time. I was also angry as the tub filled up though, because I just wanted to get in it right then, and Shell asked me to do another set on my back and on my side – I remember feeling really angry in that moment. I didn’t want to do any more. I wanted to get in the tub. I didn’t think I was capable of doing any more – I was already broken into pieces, there wasn’t any strength left. But, then I did it. When I thought that I was completely unable to, when I thought I had no strength left, when I thought I was already broken as far as I could be…I did it. I broke more. And even without strength I pressed through…screamed through, but made it.
When I finally got in the tub it was such a relief, but things were still moving pretty fast and intense. I remember the water felt like it was really cold to me, even though Shell and Bryan kept telling me that it was plenty warm. I shivered and turned on the hot anyway.
By this point I really wanted it over. I pushed a bit in the tub, but quickly felt like I had to pooh. I got out and went to the toilet. I poohed a little and worked through a contraction on the toilet and then it hit… My bottom split open – or at least that’s what it felt like. I jumped off the toilet and cried out “she’s coming!” Bryan had just then gone to get me more water, so Shell hollered for him to come back and he was there a second later. It was then that I really started to push.
I reached up to feel the head as I had with Thaddeus. It felt so different, so smooth, I was a little freaked out at first. It wasn’t until later that I realized what I was feeling wasn’t exactly the head – it was the head still wrapped in the membranes since my waters hadn’t broken yet.
I squatted in a sort of half kneeling half squatting position and pushed, Shell and Bryan pushed in on my hips from either side. I pushed more. There was a popping feeling and sound as my waters broke. It was 3:22am. I pushed more and reached down (Shell said I actually pushed her hands out of the way, but I don’t totally remember that) what I do remember is Bryan and I together catching our beautiful little girl. She was born at 3:25am on labor day, September 5th. She had her hand up by her ear and her chin tilted up instead of tucked down, which explained some of why the pain had been so intense.
I laid her down on the floor in front of me and waited a minute or two till I was feeling like I was back in my body and ready to pick her up. I held her for a moment, but felt pretty shaky and laid her back down in front of me as Shell gave me a shot of pitocin (we had decided to do pitocin right away after the birth since we had some concerns about hemorrhaging). Shell also gave me a drink of Chinese herbs after the shot.
After the cord had stopped pulsating we cut the cord. I remember asking Shell about waiting till I delivered the placenta and having her tell me with a little bit of urgency in her voice that she wanted to get it cut and me laying down. She showed me the cord then and it had clearly stopped pulsating so Bryan went ahead and cut it. Shell then had me lay down with the baby on my chest/belly. Bryan and Shell both kept telling me to look at them and keep my eyes open, which I remember being really annoyed with because I thought I felt fine… just tired. I remember thinking, “It’s all over now so why can’t I just rest for a second?” I also remember feeling a lot of pressure from the placenta and feeling so relieved when it was delivered. Shell said something about it coming out a different way from normal, something about how placentas coming out that way are more commonly low laying in the uterus.
Bryan was asking me what song was playing on the playlist, it was A Thankful Heart, which was the first song that had played from the playlist back at the beginning of my labor. He kept telling me to keep my eyes open and I still felt annoyed. By this point I couldn’t stop shaking, which is not uncommon for women after birth. Shell gave me some oxygen and kept asking “are you with us? Bethany! Look at me.” I guess I must have looked much worse than I felt.
Shell checked me out and told us my bleeding was really light (a big relief), she also told us I didn’t need any stitches (of course that was also a relief). I think she checked my heart rate and blood pressure as well and all was normal. She told us that physically I was perfectly fine. Nothing was wrong with me. But, she and Bryan still seemed worried about me and wouldn’t let me close my eyes. For the next little bit they seemed to focus on keeping me from passing out. Bryan brought me a couple of spoonfuls of raw honey and that seemed to really help. Once I started to feel a bit better I really wanted to sit up since my back hurt and I still felt pressure while laying on it.
I sat up, leaning against the bathroom cabinets and held Sage. It was the first time I really truly looked at her. Bryan sat next to me and we both just stared at her. It was a really sweet moment for all of us and I was glad that we were able to enjoy that time for a little while. I nursed Sage a little, but she wasn’t all that interested. I remember Shell telling us that the song that had been playing when Sage was born was “Hey Jude” – I hadn’t even noticed.
After a bit, Shell took Sage to look her over and weight her. It was about then that Brie came in carrying Thaddeus. Thad cuddled up to me and together, with Bryan next to us, we all watched as Shell checked Sage out.
She weighed 5 pounds 15 ounces and was 18.5 inches long. Shell guessed by her reflexes and size that she was actually about 38.5 weeks gestation (we had already been speculating that my original estimated due date was wrong and this confirmed it). She was a tiny little one, but healthy and strong with the most beautiful rudy coloring.
After Shell was done I got cleaned up and crawled into bed with Sage. Shell took a short nap before checking us out again and heading home to get some rest. Bryan got Thad breakfast and played with him. And thus began our very long first day as a family of four.
Rejoicing in the journey –