The next several hours were extremely rough. I remember thinking things like, "I will never, ever do this again," and, "I think I might actually die before this baby gets here!" Rational thoughts were beginning to be quite rare, and I was feeling almost completely asleep as I walked between contractions. It's hard to explain, but the labor gets so intense that your mind begins to look for any possible way of escape. Many women go through the "self-doubt" phase at this point in labor, expressing that they "can't do this." I had made up my mind before labor not to voice these types of feelings, and it was a good call. If I had allowed myself to proclaim doubt or fear, it would have been like an all-consuming tidal wave, which would have weakened my resolve to finish what I started. Who knows...I might have called up an ambulance and had myself shipped to the hospital for an epidural for all I know! A major, MAJOR help was my friend, Reilynn, who was acting as my doula. As she prayed for me through each contraction and massaged my back, I heard her pray things like, "Thank you for this contraction, Lord," and "Give her the strength to make it through this contraction." These prayers acted like reminders for me to put my weakening, feeble, exhausted self into God's hands and to be strengthened, mentally and physically by Him. Each time I looked at Reilynn, with pleading, fearful eyes, she would encourage me, telling me how great I was doing and how impressed she was with my progress and focus. So, even when I felt like I was failing or being a huge wimp, she was there to support and focus me on the reality of the quick and relatively easy labor I was having.
At about 1:00am, my water still had not broken, and I was still feeling much like I had at 10pm, with the irresistible urge to push about every other contraction. Finally, I decided that it was time to be checked. I laid down on the bed, and I remember how wonderful it felt to lay on my back! It felt so good to rest and stretch my back that I almost forgot about being in labor! Anyway, Lisa checked me and said, "Oh, hun, you are ready to go! How long have you felt this way?" I said, "Since about 10 o'clock!" She explored more and found that the only thing holding the baby back from being born was this one edge of my cervix that needed to be pulled to the side to allow the baby's head to descend!!! So, she explained the I needed to allow her to pull the cervix aside as I pushed through the next several contractions. She also prepared the bed and herself with chuck pads for the inevitable bursting of my amniotic sac. She said, "Don't think I haven't been splashed before!" Well, no amount of chuck pads could have protected her enough...In about two or three pushes, my water burst with so much force (and water) that it flooded the entire king-sized bed, her shirt, her pants, and everyone else that was anywhere near me! It washed up my back (not that I cared at that point), and I felt an incredible sense of relief of pressure. Although the amniotic sac being in tact saved the baby from any stress from labor, it made the intense parts of my labor feel much more "pressurized," if that makes sense.
After my water broke, we were off and running. That nagging little edge of my cervix was out of the way, and the baby's head was working its way down the birth canal. I pushed for a little under an hour. After talking to lots of women and reading lots of books, I had commonly heard that by the point the baby is crowning, you are basically numb down there from the pressure. They say that dilating from 8-10cm is the worst of it. Well, I am here to say that is SO NOT TRUE! Wowsers... Yes, pushing did feel different and natural, but whoa, boy...It hurt! Each push was more intense than the last. All the ladies were thrilled with how quickly he was coming down, and they expressed that they were very impressed with how I was pushing like I'd done it before (which was so encouraging for me). As the intensity increased, I remember looking around with "wild eyes," thinking, "oh my goodness...how am I going to get through this?!" When the ladies saw this look, they would remind me that this was the hardest thing I was ever going to do and that I needed to push aside my fear and focus on pushing through the pain. These reminders were exactly what I needed to hear. I needed them to acknowledge what I was going through and motivate me to do what needed to be done, and they did exactly that. Regularly, Lisa offered the mirror so that I could see the progress. Strangely enough, I was reluctant to look every time because of the pain; however, I'm so glad I did. I touched him for the first time as his little head started to poke out, and I felt and saw a head quite full of dark looking hair! I didn't have the strength to look during crowning, but Reilynn was taking pictures for me to look back on.
As the baby was crowning, Lisa was pouring oil on my "area" and instructing me to push with short, softer pushes until his head was out. This was the pinnacle of the pain of childbirth. I've heard people call this the "ring of fire," where you feel so stretched that it feels as though you're on fire. Lisa commented, "You're stretching beautifully. No tears!" What she didn't know was that Griffin was descending through the birth canal with his fists under his chin. So, when his head came out, I tore internally with the unusual pressure/friction of those little arms and fists. In other words, there was no resting point at the neck. Also, the cord was wrapped around his neck once, but it didn't cause any issues during the birth. Lisa instructed Oliver to get ready, because she knew that he wanted to deliver Griffin if possible. I'm not sure if it was the delirium or what, but I had no clue how close we were to having our little baby in the world! On the next push, Oliver reached down, with the midwives' help, and pulled Griffin out! I watched him cry as he put our son on my chest/belly, and I laughed and laughed with joy.
I'll have to wrap up this story in the 4th (and final) installment a bit later...but here are some pictures to tide you over :) [WARNING: These are, in fact, pictures of labor and the birth of a baby; however, there are no private parts shown. Things shown: a brand new baby covered with vernix, blood, and non-private parts like legs and my belly][SECOND WARNING: These are also THE most unflattering pictures ever taken of me...But, I suppose that's the nature of giving birth-You aren't exactly concerned about looking your best at the greatest moment of your life.]
More to come...