Keep Going

41 weeks and 3 days pregnant, my husband and I were both convinced our baby would never arrive, despite my doctor’s promises that I would NOT be pregnant forever. Thankfully, she was right, and the morning of March 9, I started having contractions that were unmistakably different from any others I’d had before. My husband, Sam, and I had spent months reading and reading about what to expect during labor and delivery, and despite our best efforts, things started off far from what the books said. My contractions began very close together, often back to back, and immediately had me questioning how things were going to go. Thankfully, Sam and I were able to get in touch with Rene’ (who was attending another birth), who reassured us and helped us step back and see the big picture.

I labored at home for about six hours, slipping behind the tension that each contraction brought on. There were moments of shakiness, tears, self-doubt, and fear, but they passed as I got into the mindset of allowing the contractions to roll through and do their jobs—I had to just stay out of their way. The support and love that I felt from my husband was more than I could have asked for in so many ways. Those six hours seemed to fly by as we went through the motions of relaxing, breathing, releasing tension in my face and shoulders, and drinking plenty of water. Finally, things began to change, and I kept catching myself thinking, “It would feel so good to push right now.” This thought scared me, and again, we spoke to Rene’ (still attending that birth). With her help, we decided to go ahead to the hospital.

Once admitted, I found it much harder to focus and ride the waves since there were so many things going on—nurses asking questions and adjusting monitors, machines beeping, and just a different atmosphere in general. I was feeling contractions throughout my whole body at this point, and Sam and Courtney (Rene’s back-up doula) were doing what they could to help me relax and stay as comfortable as I could be. I kept adjusting and changing positions, but each movement brought on tension from head to toe. These sensations were not what I had expected during labor. I had to remind myself that it was only pain—these feelings had a purpose and I shouldn’t get in their way with fear or resistance. An hour later, Rene’ arrived (finishing with her previous client, whose labor lasted over 24 hours) which immediately made me feel at peace—knowing René and that there was someone with experience who knew what I wanted and was there to support Sam and me.

The rest of labor is mostly a blur in my memory—my dilation moved very slowly, and I was having early urges to push. I pushed standing, using the squat bar, on my hands and knees, and on the toilet. I ended up having some swelling in my cervix, which brought on hours of rest. I could no longer act on my urges to push, which was incredibly difficult physically and mentally. During this time, instead of telling myself that I “could” do it, I start telling myself that I “WAS” doing it! I had the realization that I was already in the process of achieving my goal of a natural birth, and all I had to do was KEEP GOING. Eventually, the doctor suggested I be put on Benadryl to help the cervical swelling go down. I was very hesitant to accept this, thinking I wanted to ideally continue without any medicine or intervention whatsoever. Thankfully, Sam and Rene’ talked it over with me, and Benadryl did make a difference in the swelling after some time. I was in and out of sleep because of the medicine, which made handling contractions tricky—they would sneak up on me, and I would wake up to these powerful sensations that took my breath away.

Eventually, the swelling was gone, and I was fully dilated. I spent a good bit of time in this state because my contractions had spread out and were as far as ten to fifteen minutes apart! I was completely exhausted, and I remember having thoughts like, “Just cut this baby out!” I wanted to rest. I wanted this whole process to be over. I had spent over 24 hours in labor at this point. Sam was exhausted, Rene’ was exhausted, and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Again, I was thinking that our baby would never arrive! I reluctantly suggested Pitocin to Rene’ and Sam, and though it was against my original plan, I felt like I needed help moving things along. Eventually, they hooked me up to Pitocin, and ended up upping the dosage three times after that. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to handle the contractions that came with Pitocin, but I was wrong. Things possibly got more intense, but the changes were nothing in comparison to my commitment to moving things forward.

After some slight changes, things were still moving very slowly, and my nurse, Courtney, made a suggestion that changed the course of things. She said, “I know it goes against your birth plan, but would you let me guide you through some pushes? I just want to know we did everything we could before we have to resort to something else.” I happily agreed. It was then that the ball really started rolling! She and Sam helped hold my legs, and she told me exactly how to breathe, position myself, and PUSH! Again, the sensations changed as my baby moved down, and with the excitement, there was also a little resistance. The pressure was unreal, but I was finally feeling like my baby was really coming! The nursing staff was wonderful during this time—it is easily my favorite part of labor. It was wonderful hearing everyone cheer and squeal when they saw the baby’s head or cheered for me to push harder because he was getting closer! Hearing the excitement in Sam’s voice was so sweet, and the energy in the room was invigorating! I could feel the sensations changing again, and I asked “Is he coming?!” I heard everyone in the room say, “YES!” A few pushes later, my son was in my arms. I was overwhelmed with such relief and pride that my exhaustion seemed far away. Shortly after he was born, my baby bobbed his head over to my breast and ate without any prompting on my part. I was so proud and happy, the struggle immediately seemed so distant.

Every single day, I am amazed at what goes into bringing a child into the world. I am so proud of my strength, commitment, flexibility, and endurance. The hours I spent birthing my son were far from what I imagined, but I feel good about every step it took to get here. I am incredibly grateful to have had such a supportive nursing staff, doctor, doula, and husband, who surrounded me with encouragement and support. My son will be two months old this week, and he is by far the most wonderful part of my life and my greatest pride.

Melissa North