N. and I went to Starry Nights last Saturday night. It wasn't ideal, since it poured almost the whole time, but we had a feeling that it may be one of our last nights out together "just us." We spent the evening huddled with our friends under a tent. We ate delicious cheese and pesto and had dessert wine. I told my friend, Ellen, that I felt funny that night--like my period was coming or something.
I woke up around 2:30am that night, because I lost my mucous plug. It startled me because I thought I had peed the bed or something. A few minutes later, I started having off-and-on contractions, about ten minutes apart. I knew that I was supposed to go on and do life as usual, but I was too darn excited. I texted my doula, Jen, and she told me to sleep. I lay on the couch, staring at the ceiling fan thinking
What if I'm going to meet my son today?
Over the next few hours, I started timing my contractions. I walked around the house and every 5-6 minutes, I'd stop, write down the time and then breathe through the rest of the contraction. It was quite uncomfortable but--looking back--I probably wouldn't describe them as "painful" yet. At least not compared to what would come later!
The hours after this stage led to more intense contractions. My doula, Jen, had come over by then. It's best--if you're aiming for natural childbirth--to stay at home for as long as possible. We labored at home for about 16 hours total. She would feel my belly when I was having a contraction and be able to tell if Simon was making progress. I couldn't simply breathe through them anymore. I found myself moaning to help me cope; it's what felt most natural to me. I would sway my hips and need to close my eyes. N. would put counter pressure on my low back in order to relieve the awful aching, which turned out to be Simon's head and arm on my spine and tailbone. Jen and Nathaniel would help me find positions that would coax Simon into coming down. We wanted my water to break and for Simon to get lower.
After 16 hours of laboring at home, and after many hours of having intense contractions about 3-4 minutes apart, we decided it was time to go to the hospital. We were fairly sure that I'd be about 6-7cm and ready to go into transition and pushing within a few hours. I hardly remember the car ride to the hospital. I was in the backseat with my body draped over the seat facing the trunk. I had three contractions and kept telling myself "just get to the hospital; you'll meet him soon."
You can imagine how defeated I felt when I got to the hospital and was only 2-3 cm dilated. Simon had his arm back behind his head and it made it difficult for him to descend through the canal. My water still had not broken. We decided to have the doctor break my water for me in order to keep things moving. Nathaniel and Jen helped me to the tub where I labored on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth, pushing my head into the tub. Breaking my water caused me to dilate rapidly. Traditional dilation is about 1 cm per hour. I dilated 6 cm in 2 hours. Those two hours were the most difficult in my entire life. It felt like transition, but I knew I wasn't near the end yet.
During contractions I would moan and oftentimes yell. Yelling and high-pitched moaning isn't helpful for progression, so when I would start to slip into those coping mechanisms, Jen and Nathaniel would bring my voice back down by having my say "open" or "out" until the contraction had subsided.
I remember begging Nathaniel not to make me do this. I told him I couldn't--that I'm sorry I was disappointing him but I needed an epidural. I felt afraid and discouraged and knew that I couldn't sustain the pain much longer. I didn't know I was dilating so fast and that the end was actually quite close. I wanted to cry but knew I didn't have the energy, so I just looked for Nathaniel after each contraction and he told me "Just get through this set, and we'll see how much you've progressed." Or he would tell me how great I was doing and that my body was doing exactly what it needed to. Jen reminded me that I CAN do this--that I WAS doing it already. I just remember feeling so afraid that it would never end.
When they checked me again and I was 8 cm dilated, the pain intensified, but my resolve was different. I knew that I would meet my son soon if I just hung in there for 2 more cm. Simon was still having trouble descending, so Jen and Nathaniel had me literally squat on the bathroom floor using a sheet wrapped around a rod to hold myself up. Then they had me sit on the toilet and I leaned into Nathaniel with each contraction; I felt Simon coming down and my body would instinctively push. Finally, I got back into the tub for one last round, and I sat upright on my knees with my legs apart. I have bruises now from bearing down on the insides of my knees. The noises I made and the way that I moved were primal--unlike anything I'd ever done before. I wasn't afraid anymore, though, because I felt Simon coming with the pain--pain with such a beautiful purpose. I kept telling myself in my head,
This is temporary. This is for Simon. This is temporary. This is for Simon.
When I finally got into the bed to push, they had set up a pull up bar for me. I would lean back with my legs against the bar, and when I felt a contraction coming on, Jen and Nathaniel would hoist me up so that I was squatting and pulling up on the bar. I would push until I absolutely couldn't anymore and then I would lean back and wait for another contraction. I pushed for thirty minutes--most first time moms push for 2-3 hours, but I felt the Lord giving me the tenacity that I needed to get him out quickly.
Nathaniel literally held me up while I pushed out our son. It is so symbolic of the type of man he is. I can't help but cry thinking about this.
I pushed Simon's head out but then the doctor told me to hold back--that his arm was posterior (the reason for such a long labor). He fixed Simon's arm and with the next push, the rest of him came out.
There are no words for the emotion that I felt--something like relief mixed with elation multiplied times thousands. I wanted to cry, but no tears came. Just this sound that I've never made before--like a cry of immense relief and joy. They cut Simon's cord and gave him to me and he lay on my chest. My whole world and heart swelled to a new capacity. I loved Simon so much. I loved Nathaniel even more than I ever thought I could. I had encountered a new woman inside of me that I never knew before. It felt like a gift that God had always meant for me but He wanted to wait until I was ready--until I had fought the hardest battle of my life and won.
Simon means "He who hears the Word of God." That's our prayer for him--always has been.
And that's our birth story--the greatest story I'll ever write.