Just before Sadie came I was chatting with Donovan and a nurse about who knows what and I was sitting on a chair trying to get a new position. The nurse was saying something very wise and I was nodding and listening as a good therapist accidently does even when their not on the job and then... what was that?! Um I'm sorry to interrupt, but, I think I just peed my pants! She replied that it was okay, that it was my water breaking and that more would come. (At that point about 8 oz of amniotic fluid had come out.) In confusion and embarrassment I stood up thinking I could make it to the bathroom from there. WHOOPS. It all rushed from my body.... maybe a gallon?! It felt like it at least. I laughed. I didn't know what else to do! Donovan stood and watched from about 4 inches away, as the nurse did as well. I laughed and the fluid went shoooosh, shooooosh, shooosh! I was early enough along in my contracting that I had the awareness to be embarrassed. I think just after that was when I crossed the threshold (I have to be honest, I've never quite returned to my former level of modesty since then). Something about being in a room with 10 physicians, your husband, and your doula begging God for the pain to end with every body part showing and everyone staring at your most intimate places and putting in instruments and asking others to look makes you a different kind of person. Perhaps it's like walking the PCT in that way :)
Sadie did arrive. Thank God. She said peaceful, soothing things to me and told me the most encouraging words. Somehow in that animal like place, where you think you might die, somehow a woman who has survived childbirth is like an angel. She can tell you that it will be over soon and you believe her. She can tell you that you are taking the contractions fabulously and you know it's true. She can tell you that you're managing the pain more peacefully and meditatively than she did... than anyone she's ever seen... and you believe her. Now, I'm not sure whether or not these things are true, but she said them. And as much as I am faithful to my husband and love him so very deeply, this was somehow something that he could not do. Like I said, thank God Sadie arrived.
Sadie said that I was at 5cm when she got there. Several times after the birth when we talked she said I went from 5cm to 10cm "like that (SNAP)!" This was also very foggy because my images of pushing are so burned into my brain that the prior hours melted away. I think this is medically proven; some chemical is released when you're in childbirth or shortly after that inhibits your brain from putting short term events into long term memory. Don't quote me on that one though. I think it's a great device if it's true though. God knows I would only have one child otherwise.
One small memory I have of that time is demanding that I have a shower. It only lasted a minute or two but I wanted them to pluck me from the shower when it was time to go. I was enjoying the warm feeling of the water and it made the contractions so much more bearable. There was a small older asian woman helping me at that time and telling me crazy things about how to push and I didn't hear anything she said but I do remember saying something to the extent of that's not helpful, please stop talking.
The reason why the shower was so short was because the baby's heart was not doing well as I was contracting. They had all the monitors on me still (going on 24 hours at this point!) and they were still slip sliding/itching/plugged into the wall/making me crazy! When a woman is in labor and has to pee the last thing someone wants in the 45 short seconds between contractions is the nuisance of unplugging monitors and carrying cords around.
I remember such a feeling of relief when they measured me and found I was near 10 cm. I had asked them a couple times to check and you could tell by their faces that they would do it as a favor to me but they knew I wasn't anywhere close. Before I knew what was happening I felt something well up in me and for the first time I let out a big loud noise, UGGGGH! I was pushing, and there was no one telling me anything different! Now I remember some books saying to imagine yourself sitting on the front of a train going very very fast (to be able to acknowledge the power of the pushing and contractions without having a fear of them). Of course I forgot all of that in that crazy moment.
Dr Anika checked my dilation and said I was at 10 but there was a lip still and I couldn't push yet. Mid sentence another one came and out came the animal sounds and on I went pushing. STOP she said, but I couldn't. I wasn't trying to be disobedient but my body was doing it, my mind was gone or on a different planet, I wasn't sure. I definitely wasn't listening though. They physically manipulated the last lip of the cervix to full dilation (not sure how that all works) and said okay to pushing. What a relief! I only lasted one contraction where I actually held it in like they told me and it felt like, I don't know, a monster was trying to escape from under my skin! Now, on to the good stuff, pushing this baby out!
Some snippets from my "pushing time": Lisa the nurse sitting with her back to us, faithfully putting information into the computer all the while not having the time to really do any client care. Poor thing. Donovan was on my right side, Sadie on my left, each holding a foot. Each saying amazing things like, you are strong, use this next contraction, you're doing so well!, keep going! Later and sort of embarrassed Donovan told me that I defecated during this time, but added that it didn't matter as much as he thought it would because there were more important things going on.
I was on my back, against all my natural birthing books advised me. At that point we were doing whatever it took to keep the baby's heart monitor beeping. And on my back was the only good position. Several times they asked me to flip on my right side. NO! Too slow of a heart beat, FLIP OVER FAST! TO YOUR LEFT SIDE! TO YOUR HANDS AND KNEES. And I would flip. Or flop. It was pretty ugly. I was so tired. And again the whole medical team would freak out because the heartbeat would go quiet. They put a screw in Eva's head to monitor her heart and took off the external monitors, thank goodness! But the internal monitor kind of scared me and Sadie had a look on her face that told me it was kind of scary what they were doing. I guess in my fog I could only say yes. At some point the nurses changed shifts. The next nurse did not realize what we had been through to determine that the normal positions (that they try when a labor isn't progressing) wouldn't work. So we did the whole flipping routine again. At one point they asked and I said, I can't. But I will, if someone picks me up and flips me for me. I think everyone laughed and said I would have to do it and I was so tired, so sad. I flipped on my left side like they asked and then again to my hands and knees (on the bed) which felt so nice when I got there but they said no and asked me to lie on my back again.
This is my favorite part. We were back to Sadie holding one foot and Donovan holding the other and me pushing with all my might. I remembered something: I am an athlete! And I pushed with all my might like I would at the end of a hard race or game. During one of these last-minute-of-the-Iron-Man pushes, Dr Anika said, wow, I saw the head on that one. There was commotion in the room and she asked if Donovan wanted to see. He was unsure. Then he was curious. Then I pushed and she pointed to the head. And he said there? And she said Yes! Lots of black hair! And I was curious and excited and invigorated. And Donovan was confused looking and kind of grossed out looking, but I think he was excited too. The first day Eva was alive I kept thinking, maybe she's not ours if she has all that black hair! The pushing went on for what felt like an hour. It was 4.5 hours. Somewhere during this time Dr Anika said my pushes were strong and I was looking good. Then we had "a talk."
The doctor explained that the baby wasn't coming down. They weren't quite sure why because they said my pushes were very strong. Something must be wrong: her position or something but they weren't sure. She was at 0, which meant pelvic bone level, and in order to come out she had to come down to +4 (4 cm further down the canal). In order for them to do an assisted vaginal birth (vacuum, forceps, etc) she would have to be at +2. I pushed a few more times, nothing. At that point Anika said, let's do a C section, what do you think of that? And I said I don't know. I don't want to, what are the options. And things like "pressure on the baby" were said but I can't remember any sentence formation by that point. I felt like it was the option between both me and the baby dying right there on the table or a cesarean section. I felt resigned to this new way of meeting our baby. I felt a little renewed energy. We get to meet OUR BABY!
The big doctor lady came in to see what exactly was going on. She was very nice. She asked politely if she could see me do a contraction before we resigned to surgery. I said, no, thank you. Give me the pain medication for the surgery and let's get this over with. They asked me several times if I was sure I wanted to do the c section. I said, yes, as long as you can get me there fast. These contractions that were doing nothing were killing me! At that point I felt like it was communicated to me very clearly: your contractions aren't worth crap. They aren't going to push out this baby no matter what. So as each one came my clock ticked and ticked. Now I was looking at that clock by gosh! We signed loads of paperwork (the baby could be cut, okay? sign here. you could lose bowel control for life, okay? sign here. you may have nerve damage and can't sue us, okay? sign here! all on the labor table! my signature was crazy looking and I was only barely with it enough to realize that but not be able to fix it.) They said it would take 30 minutes to prep the surgery room, they all disappeared and started washing their hands and using new gloves and running about. I think it was 4:30am Sunday by then. It took 45 minutes, and you better believe I was counting it. I just remember looking at the clock and thinking, what on earth could they be doing?! For a lady totally against pain meds I was pretty funny in that moment. Well, if a c section is imminent and pain meds are on their way then why don't they start pumping them into me? NOW!
In time I was wheeled to the surgery room. Donovan waited for me in the labor room with Sadie. She said her goodbye, as she had been there over 12 hours, as long as her contract allowed. She said she would see me later that day after she had napped. I was very serious. The room was SO BRIGHT, there were a million florescent lights. They picked me up as a team and put me on a different table. It was skinny and long, about 10 inches wide. They asked, could I sit cross legged? NO! Are you sure? YES! At that point all I could think was, are you crazy to ask a woman in labor something like that? So we compromised at me sitting with my legs dangling on either side. They explained how it would feel to get the pain meds and what they would do to me. There was a short bee sting, then they laid me down. And slowly I returned to the human race.
The pain meds set in and there was nothing to do but wait until they were fully done anesthetizing me. So we talked about moving and Don's new job. About Portland and the weather and my family and how we didn't know what sex the baby was. We talked about my days in college and how I dissected a cadaver and how Donovan was a theology major turned software developer and yes he was very squeamish. So don't make him look. I was funny and I felt so good and I made some jokes, but now that I think about it, that might be the pain meds talking.
Donovan arrived and I greeted him so cheerfully. My head was next to him and a big blue sheet was up so we couldn't see anything past my chest. Several doctors worked on the other side of the sheet. One doctor (the pain med doctor) stood with Donovan and me on the other side and explained how things were going. Do you feel anything? Nope! And away they went. Donovan and I chattered nervously. It was hard to imagine we would be parents soon! I think we said this a few times. We must have been so delirious by then! They asked how we would like to do things. We decided they could show us the baby and announce the sex when we saw it, but not before! The several doctors in the room were all women and they were all so excited! What would the baby be?! They shouted a few times so all could hear, no ruining the surprise! We are all going to be quiet and wait!
At one point someone said something and I realized the baby was out! There was a freakish quiet in the room and I was so scared. Was the baby alive?! Seconds passed and still no noise. Then a squeal! Yippee! Such a petite little sound. And then nurse arrived on our side. I saw a little gray alien and a big umbilical cord clamp (which I thought was a penis at first) and they said IT'S A GIRL! And I looked and thought, no way! And they said it again, and I was so overwhelmed with love and joy, I was so glad to see our beautiful little girl!