My first contraction began at 5:30am. It was nothing that I ever expected and although mild in comparison to the others that would follow, I was a little taken back. I even knew it was coming (my typical 5am bathroom trip included a bloody show and the day before I had very leaky breasts). But I was told myself that lying down while having contractions are always worse than sitting up so I kept myself busy sitting up and reading Harry Potter by cell phone light. When Dan woke around 8:30am, I shared with him that I was in labor. To pass the time, I sent business emails letting everyone know I would be unavailable, I ate dry cereal and drank water, and tried to relax by playing games. By this time, it was nearly noon and contractions are finally three minutes apart. There intensity is growing and I began pacing the room using the desk and changing table to leverage myself as each wave of pain comes through (they’re leaving me teary eyed). Despite my tiredness, I’m thrilled that I’m experiencing these contractions so close together – it means my baby will be here soon (so I think)! In the mean time, I continue eating small bites of toast and drinking my fair share of water.
Very shortly after, I no longer wish to stand and I take position on the birthing ball. Dan leaves to quickly shower and by the time he comes back to me, I’m ready to get my midwife over and to get the birth pool set up. Dan busies himself with water temperature and hoses and sink extensions. My mom gets all the trash cans in place and begins snapping pictures. I’m doing my absolute best to not pay attention to all the noise they’re bringing to the room and not to focus on the lack of help I’m receiving for each contraction. At this point, my worst fear is being told that my cervix is only dilated two or three centimeters so I spent the hour waiting for our midwife and praying I’m at least 4 cm.
When my midwife arrives she confirms the worst: not only am I just three centimeters, my cervix was nearly impossible to find. She asks if I’ve been feeling anxious and although my answer was no, it obviously should have been yes. My midwife tells me to invite the contractions to slow down to about six minutes apart and to focus on making them very strong. Her main objective was to get me relaxed so she gives me the go to get in the birthing pool. I’m so upset that I’m only at three centimeters that I bury my face in a towel on the side of the pool. Everyone but Dan leaves the room and we work through each contraction together – me holding his arms as I hunch over the side wishing I was all done.
Thankfully, the moment I get in the pool, there is a ‘pop’ inside me. From then on, contractions do exactly as my midwife said – they slowed down and intensified. However it felt like only minutes before they picked up in speed. I started loosing control at this point and begin crying my way through each painful moment. The tears get bigger and bigger until I’m gushing and I can hardly breathe through the contractions. I’m emotionally lost, covered in tears and snot, and I have no idea if I can do this anymore. The pain was so intense and if I’m only at three centimeters, how could I ever be at six or ten centimeters? I’m freaking out. I’ll I want is someone to tell me I can do it that it’ll be okay. Poor Dan is completely lost and has no idea what to do or say. When my midwife comes back into the room, she sees I’ve lost control. Thankfully she walks me through breathing and regaining myself and my composure. She shows me how to use the teary energy and focus it on opening up for the baby. I have one or two contractions at such peace that when I was done, I have to tell everyone I just had a contraction.
To my absolute amazement, I’m checked at seven centimeters and my cervix is in the final forward position. Within two hours, I’ve made a complete transformation and its no wonder I lost myself in tears! Of course I began crying again (this time it’s tears of relief). My midwife and Dan help set me back into the pool. My midwife asks that I change positions from squatting on my hands and knees to lying back sitting up with my legs extended out. This doesn’t quite work for me and contractions slow down in pace and I realize its time to get out. I don’t quite remember what happens at this point but I know I ended up back on the bed where my midwife checked me in at eight centimeters. Although I wasn’t lying down completely, each contraction seems so much more intense. Instead of focusing my energy and breath inwardly, I was letting go and just plain crying through them. My midwife wasn’t going to have this and she began talking me through each one suggesting I grunt, yell, and do everything else but cry. I did all those things immediately except I did it while crying.
I’m stuck at eight centimeters. My cervix has a lip that’s not moving. My midwife is asking me what’s holding me back – what am I afraid of? I know the answer although I choose to say “I don’t know”. With each contraction I feel the urge to vomit and my worst fear is vomiting. Now I’m holding back because not only do I not want to get sick but I don’t want to do it on all the people that surround me as we were all in very close in proximity. My midwife suggests I get in the shower and although I desperately don’t want to move, I do because everyone said so. I get in the shower with Dan at my side. I’m back on all fours and I’m not crying so much as I am grunting and growling. As the water hit my back, I truly felt like an animal somewhere in the wild. I had lost all cares including the one about vomiting. I was going to do whatever it took to get this baby out and it no longer mattered what that meant. I had no care, no remorse, no ability to think about people seeing me completely nude or what people thought of my grunting or how my brother and my dad in the next room must feel about the situation. Nothing mattered and my only thoughts were getting this baby out.
When the shower water begins getting cold, I transition back into my bed. I’m now at nine and a half centimeters (are you kidding me?) and I’m still stuck and that cervix lip doesn’t want to get out of the way. So with this, my midwife must use her hands during each contraction to help pull the lip back as the baby’s head descends to hold it in place. This is excruciating and I start yelling at my midwife “no!” and “stop!” through every yell and grunt. I wanted nothing more than her hand to be removed from inside me. Of course she sensed this and she started telling me that if I didn’t like it then push her fingers out. So I tried with everything I had to do just that (I’m still crying while I do it too).
As this is all going on, the other assisting midwife is feeding me peanut butter crackers and having me sip water or Gatorade between each wave of pain. I’m thoroughly pissed at all this and I want nothing to do with these crackers or Gatorade but she continues putting them in my face and making me take a bite. I remember someone saying to me that if I was in a hospital, I’d have an IV because I’ve hardly eaten to replenish my energy. I really didn’t care.
Somewhere along the time line, still stuck at nine and a half centimeters, my water breaks. I feel so much relief and my midwife is absolutely shocked at all the fluids flowing from me. Apparently I just continue gushing and gushing beyond comprehension and there’s a light laughter in the room because of it. Then sometime after that (I’m lost in time at this point) I hear baby has descended passed the lip.
I honestly never really felt the urge to push. And my midwife realized I was pushing without a contraction. I was pushing and pushing and making serious progress and I wanted nothing more than to be done with it all. I was exhausted and in serious pain and as my midwife kept asking me if I was having a contraction (when I began pushing), I just responded yes so I could keep pushing – it felt right. Eventually my baby’s head made its first appearance. Dan was nearly bouncing up and down with this and they continued showing me the progress of the head with a mirror. I hated seeing this because the head was never as far out as I wanted it. At one point I kept repeating “I just want to be done” over and over again. I was quickly told that I’m in the exact place I’m suppose to be and to start repeating out loud “I’m exactly where I should be!” I cried while I said it.
When the baby’s head made it to a certain point that I was able reach to feel my baby crown. I felt a new since of energy and nothing was going to stop me. The crying stopped and the grunting and yelling got louder and louder. Both midwives were bringing out the cold towels for my head and they were squirting olive oil and using hot towels on my perineum. I just kept going until what felt like a pop. I immediately knew that my baby’s head was out as it came with such relief. I took a few breaths to push again and the shoulders were out. I could feel my child move through my body and with one more push for the hips, my baby was resting on my chest.
And of course I was crying. I’ve never felt so much joy and so much relief and it all felt unreal. I just kept staring at my baby and crying and looking at Dan who was in total smiling bliss. My mom, who was acting a kind of stirrup with Dan, had left me side very quickly and before I thought twice about it, I heard her announce to my brother and my dad “its a boy!” I said, “a boy! I haven’t looked!” and with that we saw a definite boy – a healthy pink baby boy who was crying a healthy cry. Dan and I immediately re-agreed on Julian Kai. He was a perfect 7 pounds, 13 ounces – born at 9:50pm.
Fifteen hours in labor and two hours more of pushing – I was so tired and in absolute heaven to have my baby in my arms. I passed Julian to Dan so I could deliver the placenta (which I laughed about as I delivered it) and afterward, I begin breastfeeding. I’m still in pain but it doesn’t compare to what I just went through. After confirming a small “nick” (didn’t qualify as a tear) and taking care of all of the messy towels, Dan and I were left alone with Julian. I don’t remember how long we lay there together but I can say that I would have been happy if it never ended. Shortly after, Julian and I bathed together. He was peaceful- certainly an old soul – he only cried for the first five minutes on his way into the wold (he began crying as I was still pushing out his hips). We get back in bed. I couldn’t sleep no matter how hard I tried – I just wanted to see my new beautiful boy.
Nothing can describe the sheer euphoria I felt moments after giving birth. The elation and joy surging through me was worth more than the seventeen hours I just went through to get to this moment. I distinctly remember my new baby resting on my chest and the only thing I could do or say as I looked at my son (before I cared to look and see the sex of my baby) was “I did it!” I looked at my baby, Dan, my mom, and both midwives, affirming to each individual that I, Maranda, just gave birth. I cried and repeated “I did it!” more times than I could count. I realized that I had gained a new respect for women and a whole new respect for myself as an individual, a woman, a partner, daughter, and new mother. To say that I accomplished the hardest task in the world would be stopping short at the truth: I had been completely renewed.
About the Writer: Maranda Bower is a birth educator and mompreneur who empowers women in life, birth, and sisterhood. She runs a shop, retreat series, + lifestyle concept for women.