Okay so we left off last time when I was about 8 cm dilated somewhere around 2-3 PM on December 30th.
After about an hour or so, the doctor wanted to make sure I was still progressing, so she checked me and said I hadn’t progressed much and asked if I wanted her to break my waters. I was like um no, that sounds terrifying. Basically they stick a long knitting needle up your area to poke the bag of waters so that the baby can get out faster, which usually makes contractions more intense and quicker. So when they asked me if I wanted that, I of course said no, but Jonathan advised me to do it because it would help things go faster, and I trusted his judgment. It was actually the coolest thing. It felt like a huge release, and I heard water go all over the floor which was CRAZY and really weird.
Then the doctor left me to contract more, but before she left she said that if I start feeling like I need to push, to call the nurse and let her know. When the nurse came in to check on me an hour later, she told me I was 10 cm dilated and asked me if I felt ready to push. I told her that I wasn’t sure, so she suggested that for the next contraction I should push and see if that feels good. So I did it, and it felt somewhat better. So the nurse said, “Well, you’re ready to push.” MUSIC TO MY EARS!!!!!! Because now the baby is almost here!!!!!! Right????? Haaaaaaahahahahhahahahahahhaha
In my experience of when I’ve watched the Baby Story (which is a lot) and Father of the Bride Part II, when it’s time to push, that’s when the doctor and the nurses come in the room and put on their gloves triumphantly, the bright lights come out of nowhere and start shining on my bottom half to make way for this glorious human being that will emerge in mere moments. However, at UPMC Mercy (and probably everywhere else in real life), that is not what happened. The same nurse that asked me if I was ready to push was the only one there, and no one came in with gloves and shining lights. In fact, no one else came in the room for a good hour. Then the second hour passed. I’m still pushing. Where the hell is this baby? Why aren’t there more people here for this? How long do they expect me to do this?
About 2 and a half hours into pushing (mind you, I'm pushing with every force of energy in my body; I'm supposed to be getting a child out of me, right?!), the doctor finally comes in and basically says that the baby is taking his/her time, but thankfully his/her heart rate is still fine and I can just keep doing what I’m doing. Are you freaking kidding me? IT’S BEEN TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF PUSHING MY BRAINS AND ALL THE ORGANS NEAR MY HIPS OUT AND THERE ARE STILL NO LIGHTS SHINING ON ME AND NO BABY HEAD EMERGING ARE YOU SERIOUS.
I tried to pray so hard. I remember thinking, “God, I had a ton of intentions and I can’t remember any of them right now except two, so I just pray for all of the intentions I wanted to pray for when I still had my brain in my head before I pushed it out.”
I asked the doctor how long she thought I still had. She said that sometimes with first deliveries women can push anywhere from 3-4 hours. I had done 2 and a half hours and the baby was still in a black hole, so this is when I started to feel defeated. Every push, every new position, every word of encouragement from Jonathan felt in vain. Nothing was happening. And I felt like I would die before the baby came out. I know that sounds extreme, and looking back I realize that this was probably the “transition” stage for me. But I didn’t have any more energy, and I didn’t have any more pushes to give. In hindsight, I wonder if I started pushing too early. Maybe next time I’ll wait to push until I really feel ready.
There was a very memorable moment towards the end of my labor during which I looked at the doctor, and I said, “You need to cut this baby out of me.” Thank God she was the particular doctor on call because she said to me, “I’m not going to do that. You’ve come so far and you are going to get this baby out yourself.” I felt so relieved that she said that for some reason, because a part of me saw that she believed in me and didn’t think I was crazy for not getting the epidural. The other part of me was like, “Get the epidural, lest you die.” That part of me won in the end.
So at the last hour of my 19 total hours of labor, I told the doctor I wanted the epidural. In triage they told me I could get it until the baby started crowning, and since Little One was nowhere to be found, I could still get it. I looked at Jonathan and said, “I need the epidural,” and he was hesitant. I told him I wanted him to not let me get it unless I used a code word (which I didn’t even remember because my brain had already been pushed out of my body), but I think he was so afraid of me stroking out that he agreed almost immediately after I repeated myself. He looked at me sincerely and asked, “Are you sure?” and once I said yes everyone started moving quickly. (Finally the staff are starting to take this thing seriously)
The anesthesiologist came in the room like five minutes later, and it was like the gates of heaven opened and let an angel into my hospital room. I truly think I heard choirs of angels singing. They told me to sit really still on the edge of the bed (which, when you’re 10 cm dilated and fully effaced and contracting every two minutes, is a really hard thing to do), they let Jonathan stay with me (which was nice because normally they make the husband leave for that part), and he held my hand and encouraged me while a new nurse did the same. Once the epidural was in, I felt like a new woman. Granted, I still felt TONS of pain with every contraction, but the epidural did what it needed to do at that point in my labor, which was to take the edge off so that I had the energy and mental stamina to keep going.
About an hour later (YEAH. I know. A whole hour.), I felt the head crowning (which because of the epidural wasn’t terrible), and since the baby’s heart rate was dropping, they used a vacuum to help pull the head out (makes me want to cry just thinking about it). I felt the body of the baby leave, and I felt immediately relieved. It was 10:02 PM. The doctor almost said the gender and got to “It’s a—” but I stopped them because I knew Jonathan wanted to be the one to say it. He leaned over to me and softly said, “It’s Miriam.” Instantly I was hit with a wave of emotion. It’s Miriam. It’s a girl. It’s my baby girl, and she’s here, and I hear her crying, and she’s okay. We did it. It’s over. I’m tired.
A severe fatigue that I wasn’t anticipating hit me like a wave as the next few events panned out. The doctor stitched me up for at least an hour (not exaggerating), but in the mean time, they handed me this precious baby girl with the wispiest little hair and the cutest button nose and no cone head.
I could barely keep my eyes open. This is my biggest sadness from the whole experience. I was so mentally and physically exhausted that I felt like I couldn’t really soak in what was happening. That adrenaline rush that our Bradley instructor described was nowhere to be found. I felt like I had gotten run over by an 18 wheeler.
Some people ask me if I regret getting the epidural, since I had gone so long without it. Truthfully, if I had to go back and do it again under the same circumstances, I would absolutely do everything the same. Even though I was tired and drugged up after I delivered, I knew that the epidural gave me the mental encouragement to keep going, and that was all I needed. As a Catholic, I have been taught to embrace suffering as an opportunity to unite myself to Christ. Rather than run from the pain of labor, I wanted to offer it up in union with Christ's sufferings and his Passion. I took this attitude into labor, and even though I got the epidural, I still think I was able to do this. In my opinion, taking pain medicine during labor doesn't mean you can't offer your sufferings up or embrace them. Also, sometimes we just need medicine. In my case, it gave me the mental encouragement to keep myself going and deliver my child. There’s a reason we have this type of medicine, and if we can avoid it, great. If not, thank God for it. It helped me deliver a precious and healthy baby girl, and that’s pretty miraculous.
Jonathan was my hero throughout the whole process. He held me, he let me lean on him, he rubbed my back the WHOLE time, and he encouraged me. I would not have been able to do this labor without him. That’s why I usually say, “We labored.” It was 100% a team effort. It also just made my love for him grow exponentially. I know it was so hard on him emotionally to see me go through so much pain and to fear for my life the way he did (I mean it sounds dramatic but we both literally thought I was going to die towards the end). I am SOOO thankful that I’m married to him—his patience, his gentleness, his empathy, all gave me the courage and strength I needed to help deliver our baby.
I’m not sure what’ll happen this time around; my plan is to go into labor and attempt again to birth our baby without medication. If I need it, I’ll get it. I went really far without it last time, and I think since I know what to expect now I can try to go even further without medication. That being said, I know things can come up unexpectedly, and I’m not going to hurt myself or my baby trying to stick to a specific plan. The best part about birthing your child isn’t how it happens, but the gift of being able to see and hold your little baby at the end of all of it.