We got to the hospital (the same one I was born in, incidentally) and we had to park fairly far away from the doors. And I was totally that woman walking through the parking lot, up the stairs, and through the hospital lobby, stopping every few minutes to moan and double over with every contraction. And I was totally that woman who didn’t care.
We went into the delivery room at very end of the hall. It had a long bank of windows all along one side that looked out over the grounds and part of the city beyond. I could see the lights in the nearby beyond shining out into the night, and it felt a little bit like a stage. As though everyone could see into the room in which I would bring a baby into the world, which made me feel simultaneously vulnerable and inspired. But it soon ceased to matter and I forgot all about those windows and whatever and whoever was beyond them.
I got hooked up to a fetal monitor and focused on making it through the contractions. At that point we found out another midwife from our team was at the hospital already with a client who had come in earlier, so she was able to support us as well. We were so incredibly lucky with our team of midwives, and I felt so blessed by the two who were at Ethan’s birth. They kept an eye on him and noticed that his heart rate was going down with every contraction, which they said was due to the cord being compressed. It would go back up, but after a while of this they started to be a bit concerned.
At that point, they brought in an OB who suggested an amnio-infusion (adding fluid back through an intrauterine catheter). They explained that it would help the issue of the cord being compressed and avoid other complications, but it would require transferring care from the midwives to the OB. The whole team (our midwives and the OB, who was a resident, and her supervisor) was very respectful of our feelings about this, but we didn’t hesitate. Do it. Definitely. No question.
That process did help for a while and we continued on. And then his heart rate started going down again and wasn’t coming back up, so the OB decided it was time to make this thing happen. I had been at nine centimetres the last time they checked and she now indicated that it was time to push when I felt the urge. Push with all your might, she said, or they’d have to use the vacuum.
At that point I started to feel like I had no idea what I was doing. How would I know when to push? And how do I do it? How do I get him out fast enough to make sure he’s okay?
My labour wasn’t especially long (unless you count the two straight days of contractions) but it was intense. And I was tired. All I could feel was pain – there was no beauty, no serenity, just pain. And then suddenly I realized what people mean when they say they had the urge to push. Hoo, boy. This baby was coming out NOW, but I still had to do my part.
Because of the deceleration of his heart rate, the OB had me push as long as I could during contractions, and then started asking me to push even when I wasn’t having a contraction. By this point there were all kinds of people in the room – two midwives, two OBs, an OB’s assistant of some sort, a nurse or two and a team from the NICU, who were there to check him out after he was born. And Rich of course.
Thank God for Rich. He had talked me through every contraction, using imagery and counting down and telling me when each one was just about over. I know he had been worried about whether he’d be good at supporting me during labour, but I never was. I knew he’d be fine. And he was – better than fine. Amazing, in fact.
Having everyone in that room telling me to push quickly became overwhelming, so I finally looked at him and asked him to tell me what to do. I blocked out every other voice in that room and just listened to him. And when it felt like it should be over I asked him to tell me what was happening.
“I can see his head! His head is coming out!”
It was the most intense moment of our relationship.
It really felt like it should be over by that point. It certainly felt like I’d pushed enough to get a whole baby out, but apparently not. It’s an odd sensation to have a baby coming out of you and to feel as though you don’t have it in you to push past the head.
“I can’t do it.”
“GET HIM OUT!”
It wasn’t my finest moment.
They told me to reach down and feel his head, so I did. It was small and slimy and it belonged to the baby I had waited so long to meet. I had no idea who he was, but I was ready to find out.
I pushed with absolutely everything I had in me, admittedly mostly motivated by the desire to have this over with. And just as I was convinced I wasn’t going to be able to do it, he was out.
We delayed cutting the cord for a bit and the OB was awesome then too, suggesting that he’d be best with me. So they put him on my chest and there he was. My baby. The one I had waited for. We had done it together.
We had a cuddle and Rich cut the cord, but Ethan didn’t cry when he was born. The NICU team took him to have a look, and he still didn’t cry – never did, actually, but he was okay. I remember looking over at him and thinking he looked like Connor (though later I decided he didn’t). I noticed his hair – blondish red and wavy. I noticed how little he was.
By that time the OB was trying to deliver the placenta, and that’s where things got really interesting. She had part of it in her hand and realized it hadn’t all come out. Apparently I have a heart-shaped uterus (which apparently likely explains why Connor was so stubbornly breech) and some of the placenta was stuck. The OB was going to reach in with her hand and try to remove it, so my midwife offered me gas. “This is going to hurt,” she said. I almost laughed – I had just given birth without pain relief, and delivering the placenta was going to hurt?
I should have asked for something stronger. Like a frying pan to the side of the head.
There are really no words to explain how painful that was. I held the mask to my face until I felt loopy from the gas and thought I might pass out, at which point I removed it and resorted to good old fashioned screaming. It was a stubborn placenta and I vaguely remember the OB telling me she needed to try again. And then, “I’m sorry – just one more time.”
I couldn’t even process what was going on, and when she was done I noticed that the OB had blood all the way up to her elbow. In my post-pain, loopy state I couldn’t figure out why. It was (of course) from her attempts at making me placenta-free, which, I found out later, took four tries. No wonder it bloody hurt.
After that, things were mostly normal. I got stitched up (oh wait, there were some issues there too, but you don’t really need to read about that, I’m sure) and we visited with Ethan. My midwife brought me toast and apple juice and I wanted to marry her.
It was at that point that we finally weighed him. I knew he was little, but I didn’t expect him to be 5-lbs-6-oz little. I nursed him and he was a champ just like his brother. He still hadn’t cried.
We were in the delivery room with our midwives until about 4 a.m., at which point we got moved to a postpartum room because I needed antibiotics after the uterus-scraping incident. But that time in that room will forever stay with me – looking out the windows, which I noticed again, talking with the team of people who helped me do the most profound thing I’ve ever done, and taking a bath with the newest love of my life.
As we made our way down the hallway towards the postpartum unit, we passed the nurses’ desk and some people in the hallway.
“Do you see?” I wanted to ask. “Do you see what I did? I made this and he’s tiny and beautiful and perfect.”
I did it.
We did it.