So. When I first found out I was pregnant, my first thought was "I get to give birth again!". Despite Violet's 50 hour labor and Leela almost being born in the van, I was genuinely enthralled with the experience of their births and was especially impressed with the weeks-long "high" after Leela.
However, as my due date got closer, and passed of course, my anxiety over labor got worse and worse for some reason. I'm a huge fan of natural labor, but I don't know what people are talking about when they say they forget the pain of labor. Bitch, I remember, and it hurts. I wasn't looking forward to contractions and I was really scared that I'd been too lucky with not experiencing the "ring of fire" with Leela and therefore my vagina would probably catch a flame this time as Harvey came out riding his umbilical cord Evel Kneivel-style. I also tested positive for GBS which meant I'd need to labor in the hospital in order to receive antibiotics, and I was worried about coping with the pain with people all up in my pain space. So for the last few weeks I heavily debated opting for the epidural so that I could relax and enjoy Harvey's emergence, even though I also have an irrational fear of being paralyzed by the giant needle being threaded through my spinal column. Maybe that's not that irrational actually.
Anyway. At the very end of Labor Day, I was part disappointed/part relieved (ok, mostly relieved) that it had not literally been a day of labor for me. Joe and I decided to head to bed a little before midnight. I stopped at the bathroom because I like to lie to myself and tell myself if I pee last minute before bed then I won't have to wake up in the middle of the night to unleash the floodgates of my bladder. And then...
Blood. I saw blood.
Not a lot, but the only other time I had ever bled any amount during a pregnancy, Violet was born 3 days later.
I told Joe and he got excited. Not because he was excited to meet his son, but because he thought he was going to get to miss work the next day and sleep in. I assured him he would indeed be waking up to his alarm and going to work, because it would be days until labor started, then probably more days until the baby popped out. The second I started talking about the last minute things I'd need help with the next day, he conveniently got tired and started snoring. I laid awake until a little after midnight, thinking about what did need to be done - bring the bassinet upstairs, set up the swing, make a little more room in the bedroom, most importantly I needed to pack the hospital bag. I figured I had plenty of time the next day though and I finally rolled over and passed out.
About an hour later at 1:30am on Tuesday, I woke up needing to pee. I cursed my bladder and stayed in my horizontal blanket cocoon trying to will the pee away (like, back into my kidneys away, not in my bed away). After a few seconds, it worked, the urge disappeared! I was so impressed with myself, I couldn't get back to sleep. And then the damn pee urge came again.
And it kept coming again and again, and disappearing again and again. It would appear for 30 seconds, then disappear for 10-15 minutes. Rinse, repeat. And I was so perplexed by this that I couldn't sleep. Finally at 2:30, I realized...
These are not bladder feelings, these are uterus feelings, otherwise known as CONTRACTIONS, and I am the biggest idiot ever.
Suddenly I'm thinking, "Ok, do I get up and pack my hospital bag now? I was supposed to be at the hospital in six hours anyway for my first non-stress test, and Joe's mom will be here in 5 hours, should I just wait until then? Is there any way to stall this? I really don't feel like going into labor. God I'm tired. Shit I have to pee. Oh wait, that's not pee, it's a baby. I've done this twice before, how do I not know the difference between pee and a baby? Wouldn't it be cool if we could pee out babies? Like if they turned to liquid then re-shaped into a baby on contact with air? No nevermind, then I couldn't have my water birth. Oh I can't wait to try laboring in that giant hospital tub this time! What should I pack in my bag? Should I go bake some muffins to take? No, I really need to sleep while I still can. This might not even really be contractions, I might not even be in labor. Crap, I think I really do have to pee..."
The contractiony thingies continued for hours. They weren't painful at all - as I said, they felt more like downward pressure in my bladder. I didn't struggle through them and my breathing didn't change, they were just a nuisance a couple times an hour. It kinda felt like that uncomfortably full feeling after you've eaten enough Thanksgiving dinner to feed a small nation. I continued in my state of denial that I was pregnant, muchless in labor, and assumed I was only up peeing literally every five minutes because I had discovered the delight of iced coffee and had entirely too much liquid during the day.
I only finally conceded to reality after the tell-tale Laborfest "pipe-cleaning". That happened around 3:30.
With reality set in once and for all, I decided to delay the mad rush to pack my bags and get things situated for just a little while longer. Things were still painless and not very intense, I didn't get the feeling that things were moving along very quickly at all, and I knew Joe's alarm would be going off at 5:00, so for that hour-and-a-half-or-so, I just laid there and felt the baby squirm around inside me. To be honest, I've never been a fan of the feeling - I think my parents let me watch weird alien horror movies at too young of an age - but I do have an affinity for the strangeness of life, and I knew it wouldn't be much longer that I could poke my belly and be touching a completely separate human being that is inside me. I felt around to try to identify all his body parts for the last time, and accepted that I will never be able to tell the difference between a fetus elbow or heel or butt. I squeezed my belly a little and thought about how bittersweet it was that these were the last few hours that I'd be the only one holding him. I silently apologized to him in advance for the days he will smell all womanly and flowery after the grandmas hold him. I gave my belly a good rub all around and over to my hips and back, and gave it a little love tap for housing my babies. I also silently apologized to it for how flabby and disturbing it was going to look in a few hours.
I was trying my best to focus on the positive. I thought about the physical process of birth a lot. Knowing about joints and muscles loosening to allow the baby to travel down, knowing certain hormones play different roles to activate contractions or facilitate labor or reduce pain, knowing the baby somehow knows to wiggle here and turn his head there, knowing what my body knows... usually that stuff calmed me and made me excited for labor, but I was still stuck in anxiety over it. The fact that I had only slept an hour and couldn't calm my brain long enough to even nap certainly didn't help. I didn't want to feel the pain of transition ever again, and decided I was going to get the epidural.
Joe's alarm went off at 5:00. Usually I give him a few seconds to stop ignoring it before I smack him in the side, but this morning I didn't give him a chance. As soon as it stopped chiming I told him it was his lucky day, he wasn't going to work today. He asked if he needed to call his mom to come early and I said probably not. We talked a little bit, I bitched about how tired I was and how I was feeling like I couldn't do it and was probably getting drugs. He said it didn't matter to him as long as I didn't give birth in the van. I bitched a little more about how many times I had been up to pee and how I didn't understand how I had been able to pee out the contents of Lake Michigan from my one measly bladder. I went to roll over to bitch in another direction I guess, when I felt that familiar gush. My water had broken. I thought I had heard and felt a little pop on the front of my belly an hour earlier, so I guess that's what that was.
Because I was GBS+, I called my midwife to see if I needed to go in to L&D. I told her I'd been in labor for about four hours, contractions were still 8-15 minutes apart, I was not in any pain, but I wanted to make sure I got my antibiotics this time for peace of mind (I got to the hospital too late with Leela and never got a single dose and was worried I'd given her a death sentence, she turned out fine though obviously). She agreed we should head in and said she would meet us at the hospital in an hour at 6:30.
I hung up and started packing my hospital bag. THIS WAS IT! I was finally packing my hospital bag! What the hell do I pack in my hospital bag? I couldn't figure out what I needed, besides clothes for me and Harvey to go home in, and my trusty Kindle and phone. So that was all I ended up packing. I had this huge duffle bag with about a grocery bag of contents. Totally forgot my birth plan and my Hulk hands. This is why people pack these bags in advance.
Joe called his mom and asked her to come early. Somehow she made it there by 6:00. It takes 15-20 minutes to drive from her house to ours, and she didn't look like she had woken up and gotten dressed in just 10 minutes, so I was convinced she had been spending the last week sleeping fully clothed and made up with her phone attached to her ear just waiting for the baby alert.
I answered the door when she got here, and she opened her eyes wide and said she hadn't expected me to answer the door (when she arrived while I was in labor with Leela, I was screaming and howling and cussing up a storm by that point and was in no shape to welcome anyone into the house). I explained that I hadn't had any pain yet, but I was pretty sure my water had broken, and I just didn't want to be in the car for any painful contractions this time.
A quick shower to shave my ankles and my pits, some dilly-dallying from Joe and some rushing him along from me, and a quick peek in the girls' door later, we were on our way to the hospital to have a baby! I only had two or three contractions while strapped in to the seat, and I was happy about that because the upright position and lack of mobility seemed to make them feel a little worse. Joe wanted to stop for Dunkin Donuts, but I wouldn't let him. My anxiety was too high and I wasn't sure why but I was just in a rush to get there as fast as possible. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing.
We arrived at Mercy and parked in the garage. I didn't mind walking but didn't want to walk too far, so I demanded Joe drive to the top of the garage so we could get a space close to the elevator. The contractions were getting slightly more intense as we were walking to L&D - I now had to make the choice between walking or talking during a contraction, and they were getting just a teensy bit painful now. Still totally manageable though.
In true Joe and Kate fashion, we got there well after our planned 6:30 meeting time. It was closer to 7:00 when I sat down at the L&D admission desk to sign all my papers and have all my cards scanned and get all my bracelets connected. While I was signing my first paper, I had a contraction. It wasn't anything too bad, but I was finding that I had to actually give them some attention now. I scooted forward in my seat a little and leaned my pelvis forward and continued writing my information.
The nurse scanned that paper and printed the next one to be signed. I was having another contraction, and this one also required a little pelvis rocking, but I continued writing my information.
The nurse scanned that paper too, then paused paperwork to go on a rant about city parking and night shift. Joe being his ever-friendly self, engaged in her rant and went on his own rant about city driving and the Grand Prix. Meanwhile I'm thinking, Why the fuck is this discussion going on right now? Can we just fill out this fucking paper work so I can get my drugs already? Shut the fuck up both of you and scan my shit already lady! Another contraction hit. I scooted forward to rock my pelvis but it wasn't enough for this one. I had to stand. I walked around the back of my chair and leaned forward on it. Finally Nurse Whineypants hands me my next paper and I write it out while leaning forward and waving my butt side to side.
Joe left the room to check out the view and left me with this lady complaining about who-knows-what while taking six years each to scan my signed papers and whatnot. I have another contraction and assume my ass wiggling position and put my head down to concentrate on not stabbing this lady's face with my pen.
Paperwork was finally all done a little after 7:00 and I joined Joe in the waiting room. We sat facing the wall-to-wall window, directly across a building with construction workers doing their thing on the roof, one story higher than we were. Another contraction hit, and it did not feel good, and we were the only people in the waiting room, so I went buckwild with the pelvis rocking on the edge of my seat. Now I was so glad I had rushed Joe to get to the hospital and I couldn't wait to get an epidural. When the contraction ended, I thought about how I was going to break it to my midwife that I was wimping out.
Before I could figure out what I would say, I was having another contraction. It hurt even more this time, and I thought back to what had worked to alleviate the pain during labor with Leela. I squatted down in front of a chair, put my elbows on the seat of the chair for stability, and started moving my hips around in any way possible. It didn't matter how I moved as long as I moved. I moaned out a few "fuckfuckfuckfuck"s for good measure. Joe brought my attention to the big open window with all the construction guys looking down in my direction. I nodded, acknowledge that I looked like an idiot, but I didn't even care.
This contraction-squat-cuss routine went on for half an hour before my midwife, Kathy, finally came to collect us in the waiting room. I had been trying to relate the contractions I was feeling at the moment to those I had felt in labor with Leela, and figured I had about 4-6 hours left before Harvey would make his appearance. I was so physically exhausted from not sleeping, and so mentally exhausted from being a psycho over-thinker, that the second I saw Kathy I just blurted out, "I want an epidural!...". Right as I was saying that, another contraction hit. I had to stop in the middle of the hallway and bend forward with my hands on my knees and do the ass wiggle. I tried to continue my previous thought. "...I'm just... having... too much anxiety... and... I can't relax... epi me... now!"
Kathy has probably been delivering babies for as long as I've been alive, so she knows her shit. She has this way of talking to you like she already knows exactly what's going on and she is telling you what is happening with your body. Or maybe she's telling your body what to do. Like she sold her soul for some supermagic midwife power to talk pregnant women's bodies into doing her bidding. Wow, anyway... so I'm contracting in the middle of the hallway with my ass in the air and I've just confessed that I want drugs in me now, and she asks how long my contractions have been coupling on top of each other. I hadn't even realized they were so close together and were lasting for a pretty long time. "Not too long" I told her. "Well, we'll have to get you into your room and get you checked before we can see about that epidural," Kathy tells my uterus.
I knew where she was going with this. I didn't want to accept it, but I knew exactly what she was thinking.
I got into my room and was handed my gown and a pee cup. I went into the bathroom and made my deposit. As I was sitting there I realized I was feeling very labor-ish. I had this haziness about me and a buzz going through my body and I was hyper-aware of all my muscle movements and visceral functions. I felt like I had to poop and was about to take care of that when a doozy of a contraction hit instead. I couldn't sit through it and sprung up to bend over the tub ledge. We meet again, hospital birthing tub. I hope you're ready for me this time because I'm going to give birth in you. I'm going to give birth in you so hard. I finished up the contraction, lost my clothes somewhere on the bathroom floor, and donned my sexy new hospital gown back out into the birthing suite so that Kathy could check my cervix.
Nine centimeters. Would you fucking believe it? Nine goddamn centimeters means no epidural, no antibiotics, and no birthing tub. I could hear the tub laughing at me from the next room, "Now you'll never get your water birth, biiiitch!"
I was in complete shock because my contractions hadn't hurt that bad yet. I'd rate my pain up until now at a 7-8 at the most. As I learned throughout this entire pregnancy and labor, denial is a helluva drug. Knowing I was doing this au natural after all gave me an immediate adrenaline rush and left me so clear headed, the next contractions actually managed to hurt less. Apparently the female body has a way of shutting some things down.
I had a few more contractions standing and bending over the bed. I could feel him working his way down and decided I'd better hop up on the bed just in case I had a Hulk contraction that sent him flying out of me. There was no way I was laying down through contractions though so I elevated the head of the bed and leaned forward on it while I had my knees on the lower half and my butt facing Kathy and my nurse. I had a few more contractions in this position, all the while holding on to the back of my gown with one hand to hang on to my last little bit of modesty.
After a few contractions, my adrenaline rush must have worn off. It started to hurt a lot out of nowhere. I didn't feel like doing this anymore. I just wanted these contractions to end and this baby out of me. So I started pushing.
At first it wasn't bad. I just pushed lightly and mostly let my body do the work for me. But then came in Kathy with her Jedi cervix tricks again, and she told me to lean forward with the next contraction and push harder like I had to poop.
And that's when the shit hit the fan. Er, that's when the shit hit the bed I mean. Yup, it happened. I was so sure that since I had previously birthed two babies without pooping that I'd be in the clear again this time, but nope. I knew I should have gone back to poop before I left that damn bathroom earlier. At this point though, the contractions were intense and my desperation to get this baby out of me was intenser, so it was only about a third as humiliating as I imagined it could be. I was even able to look Kathy in the eye later, after she had so humbly looked into my brown eye.
So, pushing continues. I'm still on my knees, bent over the head of the bed, Hulking out on the mattress and bending it underneath me for leverage, burying my face into it to muffle my roars, when I decide to take a breather through one contraction and look around the room. Behind me is Kathy with what felt like her entire arm inside my vagina, checking baby's position, stretching things, putting pressure on other things. Beside her is the nurse rooting me on while she's getting everything ready for the baby. Joe is up by my head on my left, patting my back, offering me water, and trying his damndest not to pass out. On the far right of the room is some random nurse woman standing by the open hallway door. I'm still not sure what she was doing besides checking out my naked ass. Then I notice the windows. The windows in my birthing suite had the same configuration as the windows in the waiting room - big ass 6 foot tall wall-to-wall windows, facing that same building with the construction guys, and the shades up. This is how little shame I had at this point. I asked Kathy if they could see inside. She told me the hospital staff insists they're completely blacked out on the outside and you can only see out. I decided I didn't even care if they could see me at this point.
I pushed for about 15-20 minutes total, roaring the entire time, occasionally screaming "I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS". Joe told me I didn't have a choice. Thanks, Joe. With one contraction I felt him finally slip over my pubic bone and I knew there wasn't much work left. This was the one time I was ready for the next contraction, I wanted this over with so badly. I had one brief moment of panic knowing that I was about to find out if I'd feel the "ring of fire" that I had such terrible anxiety over for 9 months, but the second the contraction started I forgot about it.
When I felt the urge, I started to push. I felt like I was going to give birth to my eyeballs I was pushing so hard. But I was determined to get him out with this contraction. I kept pushing and pushing and pushing and could feel he was so close but wasn't quite making it. Just before I resigned to giving it on more contraction, I gave one last push with all my oomphs and then some.
After only six and a half hours of labor, only an hour of which even felt like labor, at 7:54am, little Harvey flew out of me all at once. I felt the emptiness, heard him screaming, and just fell forward. Kathy was yelling something about flipping me over but I was just so oblivious to anything but the fact that my baby was out safe and my legs felt like toothpicks holding up my giant beastly body. I did finally "come to" after a few seconds and rolled over to sit on my butt. I had to lift my leg over the umbilical cord and in the process I felt it for the first time. That was... interesting. They threw my baby boy onto my chest and I gave him a kiss right away, with all that yucky vagina and birth stew all over him still. I had been too grossed out by the previous two to touch them too much before their wipe downs, so this was unlike me. I also managed to take a tour of the placenta this time too. So many firsts for my last baby!
I did, once again, have a tear. I was so optimistic that I'd come out of this birth unscathed with pushing in an upright position. Nope. It makes me wonder if I'd gone natural with my first delivery, if maybe I wouldn't have had that initial tear, then maybe my second two wouldn't have ripped me a new one too. My recovery was fantastic this time though, so I really can't complain. I felt completely back to normal everywhere by a week and a half postpartum. Sitz baths ladies, do em.
Now that I'm a few weeks out from labor and I'm reflecting on it again, I'm a little sad I didn't have a more positive attitude during the whole thing. And I'm definitely upset I didn't get to use that damn tub like I was so determined to do. But oh my god am I so happy to move on to the next phase of life!
Long story short: The day after Labor Day, I went into labor and used denial as pain relief. Early in the morning I thought my water broke, so I called my midwife and she said to head in so we could get the antibiotics in for at least 4 hours, even though contractions were still far apart and I wasn't in pain at all. Got to the hospital and sat in the waiting room for 30 minutes and all of a sudden it HURT! As I had already been having horrible anxiety over labor and couldn't get myself to relax, the second my midwife showed up I was like EPI ME NOW. She asked how long I had been in pain and having contractions like this, and I told her "Not long... what the hell are you getting at?" She checked me, and my bitch cervix was 9cm already. So I missed out on the antibiotics again, and the epidural. I decided I had to get it over with so I started pushing right away with my ass in the air and the window shades opened. Pooped everywhere, but I had no shame anyway. Harvey made his appearance shortly thereafter!
And now, pictures!
Harvey Douglas, 8 lb. 1 oz., 21 in.
The view outside my hospital room!
The view inside my hospital room :)
Big sis's kisses
Leela pointing out his "eye-ba"s.
Two weeks! Mooommmm, don't take a picture of me in a pink blanket!!