No turning back

I went to bed Thursday night feeling good, but really tired.  It was the only day since going back to work that I had stayed all the way until 5pm…go figure.  Around 12:30, I got up to go to the bathroom, and was hardly awake, when suddenly my legs were soaked and I realized this was not normal.  Suddenly I’m running the 10 feet to the bathroom yelling, “J, I think my water just broke!!!!”  I sat there in disbelief as I realized that, in fact, my water had broken and that meant there was no turning back now.  Justin came into the bathroom trying to wake up and comprehend what I was saying, and to process exactly what it meant.

We decided not to call our doctor because we knew that we would then be “on the clock” to deliver within 24 hours, but labor had not started at all at this point, and we didn’t want to risk being induced.  Justin called Tanya, our doula, and she agreed with our decision and told us to get as much rest as possible and to text her when contractions started, and to then call around 5am.

We went back to bed and contractions started within 30 minutes or so.  I told Justin to go to sleep, that I could easily handle these early contractions without any help, and I needed him to be as rested as possible in the coming hours.  This lasted probably an hour and then I really needed his help to get through each contraction.

As I was lying there, I was trying to relax every part of my body so that my uterus could take all the energy it needed in order to make the contractions effective.  I pictured my uterus as a piece of machinery that was gaining power with each contraction.  I envisioned it pulling all the energy inward from each of my limbs, which were totally limp.  With each contraction, a little bit more of my uterus would light up, and eventually the whole thing would light up, and that would be when I was ready to push.  This worked for a while, but eventually, lying down was no longer an option.

There were some really challenging contractions, and all I wanted to do was take a hot shower or bath to help me relax.  Unfortunately, our building has a sub-par hot water heater so Justin kept checking for me, but there was zero hot water, so I just had to wait until it kicked in again.  I was really emotional at this point, and kept crying in between contractions about how I wanted so badly to do this labor naturally, but I just wasn’t sure that I could actually do it.  Justin was amazing at keeping me focused on the present and telling me that not only could I do it, I was actually doing it, so just keep it up!  I could feel myself becoming more and more dependent on him with every contraction as the intensity picked up and my energy level was dropping.

Justin helped me sit up and that helped some, but it limited how much I could relax the rest of my body.  We tried sitting on the birthing ball (an exercise ball), leaning over it (NOT a good position for me), and anything else we could think of to help relieve some of the pain and allow me to relax.  Eventually, I ended up sitting on the toilet and that was the most comfortable I was for the next eight hours or so.

Yes I can!

Around 7am, Justin ran to Duane Reade for me to get some drinks and other things I needed.  At first, I was totally terrified to have him leave. He had been with me for every contraction and was so encouraging that the thought of him being gone even for a little bit was almost too much.  I really needed him to go to the store, though, so I decided to get into the shower and thank the Lord we had hot water.  As I stood in the shower, I rocked back and forth and started chanting, “Yes I can!!”  I realized that mentally, labor was getting away from me, and if I was serious about doing this med-free, I was going to have to gain control of my mind and work hard to focus.

While Justin was gone, I started throwing up during contractions, so as soon as he got back he called Tanya and told her this.  She said she was on her way over right away, since this was a change in my labor and indicated that things had stepped up.  When Tanya arrived and rang our doorbell I had just started a contraction and Justin started to head to the buzzer to let her in.  I think it’s a miracle that my nails didn’t dig into his arms to keep him with me until the contraction ended.  He had no more than opened the door for her when another one came and I was screaming from the bathroom for him to come back to me—I think he covered the length of our apartment in about 3 leaps to get to me!

Tanya and Justin talked for a minute and I remember hearing her say, “Oh she looks great, she’s really doing it, this is great” so that was encouraging.  I was really doubting myself because I didn’t think I was doing it “right.”  I told Tanya this and she was so sweet—she said of course I was doing it right, I’m having my baby and I’m doing exactly what I needed to do!

We had arranged for our dog Buddy to go to a dog sitter’s house while we had the baby, so once Tanya arrived, Justin was planning to take him.  While he was getting dressed to leave, Tanya asked me where Justin needed to go, and when I told her 27th street (we live on 196th), her face totally changed and she immediately went to tell Justin that Buddy was on his own because that was NOT an option at this point.  I must say, I was really relieved because I really didn’t want him to leave me.

Next time, have a home birth…

Instead, she said we were going to the hospital because I was in a lot of labor at that point.  Suddenly, I was really scared at the prospect of going to the hospital and really having this baby.  It also didn’t help to think of getting into a cab and driving down the West Side Highway while contracting, but as Tanya explained, “Next time have a home birth, but right now, we’re going to the hospital”.

I think that was what I needed to hear—that we’re going and that we’ll take it one minute at a time, and at the end I would have my baby girl.  I had 2 contractions before we got to the front door of our building so I’m sure the people on the first floor thought some animal was dying in the lobby, but it was really just my moaning.

As we got into the cab, the driver looked totally terrified and started yelling “ambulancia, ambulancia!!” Tanya assured him that I was fine, this was not an emergency and he needed to get us to the hospital.  As we were driving, I was holding my head halfway out the window and Tanya was putting counter-pressure on my hips to relieve some of the tension and pressure.  This was by far the longest car ride of my life and ended with a trip down what I have labeled the road from hell—where potholes in NYC go to die!!  As we pulled up to the hospital I heard the driver (speaking Spanish), giving our credit card number to the dispatcher and he was saying, “Run the number, this woman is going to give birth in my car!!!”

As we got into the elevator at the hospital, someone had the nerve to get in with us and press for a stop at the 5th floor (we’re going to the 12th).  Even in my state of semi-awareness I wanted to tell them how annoying that was to me in that moment.  We also stopped at the 2nd floor so someone else could get on, but they took one look at me and decided it was not worth it!  Finally we got to the 12th floor and I was so relieved to be there—the final leg of the journey!

Been here before

The waiting room in triage was packed, but at this point I couldn’t open my eyes, I was just focused on each contraction as it came so I just kept doing my thing.  After about 20 minutes of waiting (and lots of contractions, and throwing up in front of a bunch of strangers), we were called back into triage.

As we went back, I felt myself getting really defensive because our hospital separates the laboring mother from her spouse to do a domestic violence screening (yes, WHILE she is in labor!).  The triage nurse started to tell us that we needed to be separated and at that point I was yelling, “He is NOT leaving me, there is no domestic violence, we have been here before!”  She was not fond of my behavior and said, “Well if you’ve been here before then you know how to put the gown on—last room on the right,” and walked off in a huff.

Once we got settled, Dr. Shulina came in to examine me and see our progress and this is where things went downhill for me, mentally.  She said I was at 4cm (I was expecting 7-8).  I wish I could say at this point that I was brave and courageous and kept my eyes on the prize, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.  I lost it.  I was sure she had made a mistake and was totally beside myself.  Justin was working so hard to keep me calm but I was truly in a state of panic.  Dr. Shulina had to really talk me down and get me to re-focus on what I was doing.  Contractions were really strong and I figured I had a good 8-12 hours to go and was convinced that I couldn’t do it—there was no way.  I told Justin I wanted the epidural and that I wanted it NOW.  I figured I would have it eventually, so there was no need to wait!  Again, I became really emotional, because I was so disappointed that we wouldn’t have the birth we both wanted so badly, but I was drowning in self-defeat by this time.

Justin was amazing—he just kept encouraging me to keep it up, that I was doing great, even though I kept telling him just the opposite.  Finally, Dr. Shulina decided that I was severely dehydrated because I was continuing to throw up all the water/Gatorade I was drinking, so I needed an IV.  She explained that my uterus was not relaxing between contractions because of the dehydration so in essence I wasn’t getting a break between contractions.  Although I wasn’t able to verbalize it, this made a big difference to me.  Knowing that something wasn’t working 100% the way it should made me think that maybe I could do this once my body was back to laboring the way it needed to.

The same nurse who greeted us at triage was responsible for getting my IV ready and in my arm, and she took her sweet time.  Even in my state of labor I knew this was taking a long time, and when she finally came in, it’s a miracle Justin didn’t smack her for not getting there sooner! Originally, I did NOT want an IV because I wanted to be free to walk around between contractions, but at this point I had no interest in walking, so I figured an IV couldn’t hurt.  The feeling of that cold liquid going into my arm was like pure adrenaline going into my body.

I had the IV in my arm for only 5-10 minutes when suddenly the room was full of nurses and doctors.  They were telling me that they couldn’t keep Brooklyn’s heart beat on the monitor and they needed me to turn onto my side.  I told them I couldn’t but the resident looked at me and said, “Your baby is in trouble—get on your side.”  Suddenly, what she was saying clicked in my mind and I rolled to my side and they started me on an oxygen mask.  Again, I really started to panic because I didn’t know what was going on but all of these people in our room made me think something was REALLY wrong.

I HAVE TO PUSH!

They did another exam to check my progress and just as the resident announced, “She’s fully plus two, go get Shulina,” I had the most unbelievable urge to push.  Dr. Shulina came right in and they started to move me into a delivery room (we had been in triage for about 30-40 minutes at this point).  As they’re moving my bed, my arm was lifted into the air because my IV was still attached to the wall.  A nurse told me to keep my arms inside the bed and Justin kindly reminded her that it was because my arm was attached to an IV which was still in our triage room!

As we were moving into the delivery room I told Shulina, “I HAVE TO PUSH”, and she responded with the calmest voice, “So push!”  That was a great comfort to me—I had been in a panic mode in triage and Shulina made it clear that this was the most natural thing in the world, so if I wanted to push then it’s time to push and that was fine with her! 

Once we got settled into the delivery room, Shulina started talking to me about how to push, and preparing me for the “ring of fire.”  I had read a LOT of labor stories and knew a lot about the stages of labor, so I was prepared for this, but I still found that I was scared.  Many of my friends had pushed for several hours and I told her I couldn’t do this for 3 hours!  Again, she was totally calm and said, “You won’t—you’ll be done very soon!”  She probably couldn’t have really known that, but at that moment I needed to hear it, and it helped change my attitude to an attitude of “Yes, I can do this—my body is designed for it!”

With the next contraction, I had the most satisfying feeling of pushing.  Finally, instead of trying to relax into contractions, and allowing my body to take over, I could do something in response to the urges.  I was mostly on my back but sitting up to push when again, Brooklyn’s heart rate was not steady enough for Shulina’s liking, so she had me lay on my right side.  Again, Justin was AMAZING.  My entire upper body was supported completely by him, and from my hips down I was on the bed on my side.  Between contractions I just wanted to bury my face in his chest and hold his hand because it was such a comfortable and safe place.  With each push it was amazing that I could feel Brooklyn moving through my body, and I knew I was so close to meeting her.

As she was starting to crown, Dr. Shulina took my hand so I could touch her head and I remember yelling, “I don’t want to touch her; I want her OUT!” It sounds bad, but what I really meant was that I didn’t want just the top of her head; I wanted to hold my baby girl!

The most beautiful sound

Finally, she was there, screaming bloody murder, and it was the most beautiful sound!  The cord was around her neck once, which was why her heart rate was dropping (it was being compressed), but once she was out everything was perfect!

When they handed her to me I couldn’t believe how tiny she was.  I also couldn’t believe that I had gone from 4 cm to holding my daughter in an hour and fifteen minutes (maybe less)!!  They took her away a few minutes later to get her foot prints and do the eye ointment, foot prick etc, and while I HATED being separated from her, it was a beautiful sight to see Justin over there with her with his hand covering almost her whole upper body.  Finally the nurse brought her back and Tanya helped us get started on breast feeding.

By far, this was the hardest most emotional experience of my life, but it was also an intensely empowering experience.  I felt like if Justin and I could handle this, we had a good start into parenthood.  I have never needed another human being the way I needed Justin during those 12 hours, and seeing the way he took care of me took our relationship to an even deeper level.  He was my rock– emotionally, physically and mentally throughout this labor.  I am so deeply thankful that we got the labor we wanted and that we did it together—Praise the Lord!

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