For a look back at that day with a few picks, visit Brendan's post.
HERE WE GO...
While I was pregnant, I spent HOURS reading the stories in Ina May Gaskin's books of women and their natural births. The stories were encouraging and indoctrinated me with the belief that birth is a natural process. It's supposed to happen. It is not emergency. It does not mean there is something wrong with you. Therefore, it should not require a barrage of medical interventions. Being pregnant does not equal being sick. Of course, being pregnant and giving birth are cursed because of the sin in the world; the Bible tells me so. I expected labor and delivery to be painful, but I also expected that I would enjoy exhilarating moments like the women who told their stories in Ina May's books. I also expected that I would absolutely kick ass. What follows is my story in which I suffer the worst pain of my life, experience the ONE exhilarating moment of clutching my brand new slimy baby, and I absolutely kick ass.
During my pregnancy, I made it my mission to prepare for Ezra's arrival in every way. I nested and made him a beautiful bedroom. I bought little clothes and folded them all up. Brendan and I laid around together discussing our baby boy's bright future. I also spent a lot of time preparing my body to give birth. I did yoga and Pilates and stretched like crazy. I spent at least 15 minutes a day squatting, yep, squatting. I ate very well and took handfuls of vitamin supplements every day. I already mentioned the ways I tried to mentally prepare by reading books and stories. We also went to a class to learn the stages of labor and early infant care. I am so grateful for every last shred of prep that I did. After becoming convinced that I wanted to have a natural labor, one with no medication, I approached the impending by unknown birthday with the excitement of a dancer preparing for opening night. I imagined myself to be rehearsing for the biggest performance of my life. Of course, I was also careful to remind myself that it would not be a performance for any audience but me and the baby, my little Spud. No one should have the pressure of performing in her mind while being bludgeoned from the inside.
I think that my labor began about a month before Spudkin was due. False labor plagued me once or twice a weak. And these were no Braxton-Hicks; the contractions often hurt and were regular. By the time Spuddie's due date passed, I was pretty fed up with being teased, but I was still doing ok. I never felt desperate to be unpregnant. On July 12th, my birthday, my mom was in town to be at the birth and help us out after it. I woke her up around 6 am. "Mom, I'm having regular contractions; let's take a walk." I had long since dubbed myself "The Pregnant Ghost of Eastlake" because I'd walk the blocks almost every night as fast as I could with my swollen feet and extremely swollen belly to attempt to stimulate labor. After our walk, I was still contracting but things didn't seem to be escalating. We went to the U-District Farmers' Market where I continued to hurt a bit. Then, we went to pick up my birthday cake. On the wall was a sign that read, "The only thing more overrated than natural childbirth is owning your own business." Foreboding. By that afternoon, the yet again false labor had fizzled. We went up the block to Serafina for a birthday dinner. That night I went to bed feeling pretty disappointed but still hopeful.
Around 4am, I woke up with a pretty serious "pee-traction." You know, the little contractions you get when you really have to pee just because there's so much going on in there. I was really out of it, so I didn't think much of it. As I laid down, I felt a little leak. I used a tissue to see what was up, and it was pink! A good sign! (I should pause for a moment to discuss the crazy way that expecting affects you. I had a miscarriage before I got pregnant with Spud. Blood was a very bad sign for 8 months. However, towards the end, you want to see some. It means that your cervix is dilating and could indicate loss of the mucus plug. Once, I blotted my lipstick and threw the tissue in the toilet, then I peed. As I looked at the swirling flush, I saw pink! For a second I was all excited; then, I realized it was just my lipstick- a huge letdown!) So, anyway, it was pink! I got up all excited and Brendan turned the lamp on. As I got out of bed to do I don't know what, I leaked some more, and we gleefully concluded that my water was broken. Yes!
After timing the contractions (9 minutes apart), we decided to wait awhile before calling Cindie. I wanted her to have as much rest as possible! We tried to sleep, but we were just too excited. I think we just laid around timing contractions as I practiced my breathing and relaxation techniques in preparation for what was to come. Once we talked to her, Cindie was encouraging and excited and told me to eat something. It was a Sunday morning, so we figured none of us would be at church that day. I remember thinking how everyone would be so suspicious and excited for us. By midmorning, my mom, Brendan and I were sitting on my sunny front porch getting fresh air and timing contractions as I ate partially thawed frozen strawberries with honey. They were delicious. The contractions were still really manageable. We'd read over and over again that you should stay home as long as you can, so Brendan wasn't going to let me go the hospital until I really seemed like I was in pain and getting serious.
At around 11 am, Cindie called, and I started to cry. I felt flooded with hormones and overwhelmed by what was soon to happen. My contractions were getting more painful, and that was a little bit scary. I knew that the worst was yet to come. She suggested that Brenna come over. Brenna is a labor and delivery nurse in St. Louis and my very good friend. Brenna was excited to get the call to come join us, and I was encouraged to have someone around who'd seen this all before. It reminded my how normal it all was. She watched me do a few contractions and encouraged me (and Cindie) that I was handling everything well. My concept of time started to disappear at that point. All I knew was whether or not I was contracting. I had to focus more. Everytime I went to pee, I'd have a really painful contraction on the toilet. Then, I'd stand at the kitchen sink to wash my hands, and I'd have another contraction. That's when my desire to be on the floor kicked in. During each contraction I wanted to and did kneel down on the floor and rock back and forth. I started asking if I could go to the hospital. Brenna and Cindie agreed that it was a good time. Around this time I started making noise. I'd read that my noise could be loud as I needed but that it needed to stay low. Relaxing and opening the mouth and throat are connected to relaxation of the birth canal.
Everyone started getting things ready to go- including a barf bucket because I started feeling nauseated. In between contractions I hobbled to the car. I'm sure was a sight to behold. I had on a short cotton skirt, and I had my tank top pulled up over my belly. My hair was in little looped pigtails, and I had a bucket. In the car, I had a contraction, and I just had to focus and say "Rah, rah, rah" in a deep, breathy voice. Thankfully, the ride was very short. Then we arrived at Group Health on Capitol Hill. My love affair with the ground continued. My entrance to the hospital went like this: kneel down and have a contraction outside the car. Hobble to the doorway. Have a contraction on my knees in the entryway. Crawl into the elevator. Have a contraction. Crawl out. Hobble to the nurses station. Try to smile and be pleasant. Have a contraction. Hobble to my birthing room. Sink to my knees. Contract. Rest. Contract. Rest. Contract. Rest... you get the idea.
I was relieved to be at the hospital because things were feeling very intense. I couldn't wait for Cindie to arrive and check to see how much progress my cervix had made. I was sure that I'd be really far along because I was already one centimeter dilated and almost completely effaced before my labor even started. After I started feeling like I needed to change positions, I laid on the bed for Cindie to check me. Dang it. Only 3 centimeters. Brendan and I were really discouraged. The hospital doesn't really want people to show up until they're about 5 centimeters. Cindie quickly attempted to assuage our disappointment by saying that I was working really hard and that it probably wouldn't take as long to get to ten as it had taken to get to 3. She said we might have to find a pleasant way to pass some long time so that I wouldn't get to burnt out. "Maybe we can sit around and tell funny stories," she suggested. "Fat Chance," I thought. I was hurting to badly to think about anything by my contractions.
I got into the tub and the warm water was a welcome change. However, my contractions quickly became extremely painful. I had to yell and make all kinds of sound. I said blar, blar, blar. I sort of mooed. I said rah, rah, rah. I screamed a few times, but I tried my best to not scream in a high pitch because I knew that would mean that I'd lost control. I had to stay in control. Stay on top. I cried out to Jesus for help. I said "this sucks... but I love you Spud!!!!!!!!!" I even said, "Oooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh, SNAP!" Which brought some comic relief to us all. Nothing helped my pain. We tried aromatherapy. God has blessed the woman who can be calmed from that sort of torturous pain just by smelling some freaking lavender. I wouldn't let them clean my blood out of the tub because it was encouraging to me. I knew that it meant cervical progress. At another point, Cindie prayed for me to be able to empty my bladder because that was hurting. Her prayer was answered, and that was a relief. At some point in the tub, I puked. At that point I really started to have an internal panic. "They're going to make me do this naturally even if I say I can't," I thought. I'd read the books. You're supposed to encourage a woman begging for drugs to just go, "a little bit more." I was afraid that I was handling my pain to well and that they wouldn't be able to see how badly I was hurting. I still didn't want drugs, but I knew I couldn't endure that pain for more than maybe another hour or two. Although, still, time was a bit fuzzy for me. Cindie came in and I expressed my concern. She said that they wouldn't make me do anything. I knew that my behavior could be an indication of transition- the opening of the final 2 or 3 centimeters, but I knew it hadn't been very long and couldn't believe that I'd already made that much progress. Cindie suggested that she should check me, so that we could have a better idea of what I was facing. I was 9 centimeters. That was the most thrilling news. "Awesome," I thought. "I can do it!"
At that point, Cindie said that she would just sit with me and watch for me to begin pushing. After a while, I still didn't have any urge to push. Cindie said that if I got out and maybe got into a better pushing position, we probably could see the head. I honestly can barely remember getting from the tub to the labor bed. I'm sure I had lots of help! At this point, the strange, deep, searing pain that I had in my lower right quadrant got VERY intense, and I was trying desperately to find a position that would alleviate some of it. I laid on my left side with my right leg straight up to the side, by my ear, and totally turned out- ballerina style. That felt sort of good, but I couldn't find the strength to push. And, poor Brendan was trying to support my leg, and that was hard for him... and not working well. I wound up on my back. The head began to crown after just a few pushes. At this point, I did get one or two really long (maybe 5-10 minute) rests between contractions. I still had no urge to push, and I never got one. So, any time the pain started I would make myself push. That was disheartening because I had read that I would have some relief when the urge to push set in, and I thought that the more athletic effort would be nice because at least I'd have something I could do. Alas, it just kept hurting a lot! After about an hour and a half of seeing Spuddy's little top of his head crowing in the mirror and trying to coax my perineum to relax with warm compresses, Cindie said that she felt that my perineum was just too strong. She said that I could keep going and maybe not tear because it was so strong, but that an episiotomy (which she almost never does) would probably speed things along. I said I wanted to keep trying on my own. The crowning continued, and the right side pain got worse and worse. I remember looking up at the ceiling and thinking "I lift my eyes up; where does my help come from?.. From the LORD!" That was my only comfort. Meanwhile, my team was all around me helping as best as they could. Brendan and my mom each held a leg; Brenna was taking pictures and giving slurps of energy goo and water between pushes.
After another hour, Cindie checked in with me again about an episiotomy. At that point, I was ready for ANYTHING that would alleviate some pain and speed my process. I agreed, and she made a little cut. I could tell from her look that it probably wasn't enough, and she said, "How did that feel?" "Fine. Do what you gotta do," I said. So, she cut a little more, and that one hurt a bit more. Still, compared to my weird side pain, it was nothing.
In the next big push, out came his head! I just glanced down at the mirror to see, and everyone was excited. I think someone said, "he's looking around!" Indeed, he was; I saw it later on the video. Cindie said something along the lines of, "if you give one more push, I can get him on you." I was sort of wanting to rest, but I summoned all my strength to get him out. Cindie had to unwrap the cord from his neck (just one twist, I think; and it hadn't been affecting his heartbeat or anything. He was strong throughout my labor). When I pushed, his left hand shot out first like he was a little superman taking off for a flight! That, and his absolute lack of a cone-head, contributed, we think, to the long pushing session. His whole little body flopped out right after that. Even while I was still crying out from the push, he was up on my chest. They rubbed him and maybe sucked his nose out a little. His apgar scores were great, and he cried right away. I was amazed by him, and we said his name: Ezra Wray Ribera.
I have to say that I was so shocked by everything that had just happened and in so much pain from the aftermath that it was difficult to focus on Ezra. I was able to comfort and cuddle him at an instinctual level, but my mind was only able to think, "Oh MY GOSH! What just happened? Why did I do that naturally? Am I ripped everyway from Sunday?" I wasn't as torn up as I though I was, though. The nurses did forget to move the mirror right away, and I saw my body in a state that NO ONE should ever see! It was about as close to a horror movie scene as I can imagine. They whisked it away really quick when I yelped, "Can someone move the mirror!?!"
Ezra was born at 7:21 on July 13th, a Sunday; he weighed 8lbs 3oz and was 19.5 inches long. He had a pretty good night. My mom mostly looked after him b/c Brendan crashed, and I was in shock/pain/couldn't really walk. When the nurse came to get me to help me to the bathroom later that night, I almost fainted, and I couldn't believe how destroyed my body felt. She took me into the bathroom where the tub was and turned on the night light which was just one red bulb. It was awful! It was, again, like some horror movie flashback to the site of the heroine's ordeal! "Turn on the real light!" Yeah, I kind of freaked out about that. The night passed very uncomfortably, and my (up to now) 7 months of sleeplessness began.
The next day, I was very emotional, of course, and felt extremely traumatized by the pain and surprise difficulties of my labor. Still, I was thrilled that it was over and that it had been relatively fast. Ezra looked great. He was so sweet and responded well to both of our voices- especially Brendan's. He was a great nurser almost from the get-go. When Cindie came to check on us, I cried and asked her to remind me why I did it naturally. She did a good job of encouraging me and letting me know that it was ok to mourn over the pain and scariness of it all. Really, I was just glad that Ezra was alright. After losing Speck, I didn't mind what sort of hell my body had to go through as long as Ezra was ok, and he was just wonderful.
Since then, I've totally glossed over all the horrible parts of that birth in my mind, and I'm ready to go natural again next time. I know what my body can do, and I know what God can bring you through! That is the best thing about natural labor (in addition to the reduction in risk for the baby). Recovery was hard, but it didn't take too terribly long. I feel back to normal now, and considering what a crazy process it is, 6 months isn't very long!