The final parts of Lucy’s birth story are likely best told as a series of pictures in my mind. Moments I thought I would never forget… my hazy memory of Emily’s birth tells a different story. I’ll make some effort to put them in a narrative order… but that is the best I can do.
We took the room in the front of the birthing center, the same room I’d been in only twelve hours earlier. Only at night it was different, quieter. As we arrived and our bags were put down, cell phone chargers plugged in, I could not help but imagine that it would be in this room we would meet our baby. These people…. these were the players. Me, MQD, Erin, our doula, Sarah, the midwife and Missy, a kind and gentle nurse on call for the evening. Later that night I would laugh between contractions, laughing to cover my embarrassment and apologize for what I feared seemed a rude question and ask Missy why she was there? “I know you are not actually a scary person… but no one told me that there would be a nurse here the whole time. Is something wrong with me? or the baby? Is that why you are here? You’re scaring me.” We all got a good chuckle over this, my being frightened by this addition to our cast of characters.
As we organized ourselves, each of us finding our place in the room I decided to change my clothes. I had a black nightgown, with a racer back that I had envisioned wearing for a while. I pulled it on and realized it was backwards and started to giggle, pulling one boob out each side I said “So, I was gonna wear this, that’s cool, right? A great nursing gown, too, right?’ It set a tone, showcasing my absurd sense of humor, in even the most reverent times.
Sarah checked me and I was six, maybe seven centimeters dilated. Not as far along as I had hoped but lots of progress had been made since the morning. She said that she thinks my water had ruptured up high in the amniotic sac, there was plenty remaining so there was no reason to be concerned about the baby. I recall her telling me that we had plenty of time, and thinking, sure, loads of time, what’s the rush?
Shortly after we got to the birthing enter my contractions began to get closer together. The experience of the stopping and starting of active labor was an incredible feeling. The relief felt as each contraction ended, the way I could see it in MQD’s face as they peaked, the reflection of my own pain in his eyes and the strength I knew I had to endure them, these were all new experiences to me.
I have since told anyone that I have spoken to that the stopping and starting of contractions can be compared to only one other mind-altering, if not life-changing experience in my life. In my wilder, younger days, as I sat in a hotel room after a concert with a handful of friends, looped on whatever was our pleasure for the evening, sweaty from dancing, all of us in our own mental spaces I can recall the moment when the trip was over and I’d blink my eyes. And in that instant, I was back. “Guys, hey guys! Are you normal? I feel totally normal. Is anyone else normal?”
As each contraction came to an end I’d revel in having my body back, my mind returned to me, all at the same time clinging desperately to the fleeting memory of the experience, knowing that I had experienced something while I was gone, something I wanted to remember forever.
My greatest weakness as an individual and as part of a couple is my struggle with asking for help. And this experience was life changing in that respect. To see and experience what I am capable of achieving if I am willing to lean on others, specifically someone who loves me, was empowering. To experience that strength that comes when you need it most.
My contractions continued to escalate for some time, growing increasingly more difficult in their peaks, and slowly my need to entertain, to hold court, to make up for perceived weakness during those moments with a clever commentary during the time between contractions slowly waned.
It was during the first of one of these quieter moments that my water broke. Again. This time I got to experience the rush of fluid that you see in the movies. It was comic, nearly missing soaking Erin.
This was another moment that I could feel the energy of my own mind shift. My water had broken completely. It was to time to get the baby out. Shortly after this Sarah checked to see how dilated I was, at my request. I was beginning to second guess my intuition. What is an “overwhelming desire to push?” I have had a nearly overwhelming desire to meet this baby for weeks. How would I know that this was the time when I could not fight the desire any longer?
I was only 9 centimeters, but feeling more and more like it was getting closer. I was afraid that Em’s absence would hold me back. That I’d not be ready to meet our baby until I knew she was here, the final players in our cast of characters.
MQD called Amy. Or maybe it was Erin that called. I knew they could get here within half an hour. As soon as I knew they were on their way I started feeling more and more like I couldn’t wait any longer. Sarah told me she could help me, she could try to ease my cervix back that final centimeter if I felt like I needed to start pushing now. Later, when my sweet girl was born with a head not unlike that of Megamind I would see that this early pushing, the pushing that I felt had been wasted energy, it had been significant. Moving Lucy down in my birth canal, it had also made for one hell of a bruise as I tried to squeeze the poor girl out a not quite open door. Days later with her perfectly round little noggin in the crook of my elbow as I type, I can laugh. If I doubted my strength I need only look at those first few pictures of her.
Eventually the struggle of pushing before it was time became too much and both Sarah and Erin suggested I take a break, change positions. I had been so certain that I’d want to labor in the bath but intermittently through this labor I was afraid of falling. Off the bed, down to the ground, I just felt like my grasp on the planet was tentative enough, the addition of water seemed too much. At one point, we started to fill the tub, but the sound was overwhelming.
Amy and Emily got to the birth center before I got up, I think. I know that Em came in, sleepy eyed and tentative. She stayed through the duration of a single contraction. And I told her that each one ended. And when they were over, I was okay. I recall telling her that it was just like when we were at home. Amy took Em out to the lounge area to watch a movie and I think that was when I started feeling like I needed affirmation. I asked Erin to tell me what was happening, that I was okay. I remember her saying “this is not like when you were at home, this is transition.”
It gives me goosebumps now to type it. Transition. The most difficult part. The last part. The period of labor that comes right before pushing. The hardest work is done now. This is the time when it is officially “too late” for an epidural. I was tired. And frightened. But in the back of my mind I knew then when she said that single sentence, “This is transition,” I had this.
We’d done it…. part four.