*DISCLAIMER: The irony of this is that despite of both Matt and I wanting an intimate birth experience with just the two of us, we are putting our birth story on the world wide web. Well, it’s so other ‘moms and dads to be’ who are in the dark can hear a real story. Something we hadn’t heard much before we had Ellie. The stuff “The Baby Story” didn’t show. Not the “so and so went into labor” followed by a “baby was born”. Well, what happened in between?! So I thought about holding back some details, but decided not to. Because labor was painful, uncomfortable, frustrating, annoying, and definitely not pretty, but also loving, validating, beautiful, peaceful, at times even funny, and most of all, EMPOWERING and REAL. It’s not all trauma freak-show, and there’s nothing hush-hush about it either.
I started off being terrified of labor. Absolutely fascinated, but terrified. Maybe I watched too much “The Baby Story” on TLC in college, or all those movies featuring screaming and cussing women in labor in war-zone like chaos. I had this preconceived notion that labor was going to be traumatic, chaotic, pain like you’ve never felt pain before, and having absolutely no control. Why do you always hear the traumatic stories? Why does no one talk about the positive ones? I even remember a particular episode of “The Baby Story” where the woman was literally about to push the baby out, screaming in pain and the OB shushed her and told her “no screaming”. WHAT?! And her idiot poor husband was totally disengaged, just repeating to her what the OB was saying. You better believe I’m going to scream if I want to when I’m in labor, and my husband BETTER be feeling the pain that I am in too! Is what I remember thinking. I’m squeezing a miniature human being out of a hole. IT’S A BIG DEAL.
But despite of this fear, I always knew I wanted a drug free birth. My mom had me without drugs, and she never made a big deal about her pregnancy or labor. I just always assumed that’s what I was going to do too. Well, how do I psych myself up to do something I’m absolutely terrified of? I researched the heck out of it. And mind you, I’m not the researching type. But I researched birth like I was going to be a contestant on Jeopardy-Birth. I’ll take ‘Pitocin’ for $500, please! If there was one positive thing that came out of watching “The Baby Story”, it was showing water births, and how comfortable all those women looked. I couldn’t believe how much more at ease the woman seemed to look like laboring in the tub, and how easily the baby slipped out.
So I knew I wanted a drug free birth, and I wanted a drug free birth in the tub. Where the heck do you go to do that? Plus, I had to get Matt on board with this too. When I told him about this, he just looked at me like, WHY??? And I was thinking, WHY NOT??? Yes, it’s my body, but I couldn’t go through the pregnancy without us being on the same page. So we talked a lot. About my fear, his fear, where it’s coming from, how I wanted to overcome it, and how I wanted this to be an empowering experience for me as a woman, and for the both of us as a couple. I showed him articles I found, and convinced him to watch a documentary called “The Business of Being Born.” After that, he was sold. Let’s do this.
We found the Greenhouse Birth Center. 90 miles away from home, an hour and a half away. With my due date in the middle of winter. In Michigan. With road constructions all year ‘round. It could be spring-like weather, or it could be blizzard conditions. It was definitely a risk. But when we went to their information night, within the first 5 minutes I just knew. It felt so right that I was grinning ear to ear and my butt was dancing.
Over the course of the pregnancy we developed a special relationship with all the midwives there. All of our questions were answered, fears heard and validated, and excitement shared. I didn’t think Ellie was going to come before her due date. I came a week late, so I figured she would too. And they all say first ones tend to be late. I wanted to work up until the last minute. Hey, if my water broke at work, my water broke at work. At least I’d be with friends who could help me.
Well, I ended up getting a cold over the weekend of my due date. GREAT. I called in sick Monday. And on Tuesday, I decided it was going to be my last day of work. Wednesday, I rested and calmed my nerves as best as I could. Physically, I felt much better by the end of the day. Early Thursday is when the action began.
The worst part for me was the anxiety. The not knowing. The not having control. I sort of understood the women who schedule their C-sections. How am I supposed to know?! I’ve never done this before. They say you know when you’re feeling contractions. Okay… So Wednesday night we went to bed around midnight. I woke up every hour and a half in discomfort. Mind you, I had an extremely smooth pregnancy and had no trouble sleeping through the night. So this was different. Finally on the third time, Matt asked me if I thought I was having contractions. Oh, I don’t know…I snarled. How am I supposed to know?! So at 5:30am Matt called the birth center to give them a heads up. It’s happening. I wanted to shower, do my hair, and apply some makeup. It’s the one thing I had control over, okay? I didn’t want mascara running down my face so I skipped that, but at least let me draw on my eyebrows so I don’t look like a ghost, okay? The midwife suggested that I take a bath to ease the contractions and ease the labor. Our bathroom with a tub was completely gutted for remodeling. Thank goodness Matt’s parents lives 20 minutes away. By 8:00am when we left our house, the “waves” were definitely stronger. Okay, okay, so now I know. I don’t remember the car ride at all other than thinking “why does our city have so many railroad tracks and ten thousand traffic lights?!” JUST GET ME THERE.
We got to Matt’s parent’s house and I didn’t speak a word. I don’t even think I opened my eyes. It was too distracting to look at anything. I just crawled up the stairs to the bathroom. It took me 15 minutes just to get undressed and move myself into the bathtub, but when I did, I immediately felt some relief. Ahhhhhh…THANK YOU.
After that, it’s all kind of a blur. The contractions were getting more and more intense. My body would go stiff in anticipation and I would embrace myself before the contraction came and just breathed and prayed for it to be over soon. All the while Matt was right by my side holding my hand, encouraging me, and doing everything he could to make me comfortable. I felt bad for him because I thought I’d be bored if I were in his shoes. As a matter of fact, before going into this I thought, wouldn’t you be bored when you’re in labor? Just waiting? Having contractions?! Ha! I was surprised how quickly time was moving. I would close my eyes and ride through the waves and next thing I knew, I’d open my eyes and it would be an hour later. I was totally in the zone. Sweet. This should go by quick! Ugh….
Finally, I was just pruned out and I didn’t want to lie on my back anymore. So I wanted to get out of the tub. What an ordeal. Obviously I couldn’t move during a contraction, and I couldn’t move quickly. It reminded me of when I had mono in college and it took me a half hour just to drag myself out of bed, across the hallway to the bathroom because I was so fatigued and delirious from my fever. Finally, I got myself to bed and I laid in the fetal position. Matt gently suggested that maybe I should eat something. All morning, I had been sipping on the fresh fruit smoothie Matt made and occasionally eating a piece of fruit. But I knew I needed some substance for energy. While I had absolutely no desire to eat anything, I was trying to think of what I wanted to eat. Tricky… In my hazy state of mind, I was thinking, you know, this is your chance. If you say I want a surf and turf right now with a side of escargots, you’re gonna get it. Followed by a, too bad I don’t want a surf and turf right now…dangit. I am NEVER one to not have an appetite. I ALWAYS have a taste for something. So this was very difficult. I knew how important it was for me to eat. But how do you come up with something when the thought of food itself makes you want to vomit? So I thought about my comfort foods. Strawberries. But I had already been eating those throughout the morning, and I needed more substance. Brownies. No, no… I tried to think back to my childhood. I know! Stouffers Tuna Noodle Casserole. That was the one “American” meal my mom would “make” when I was a kid and I loved it. And that was probably the last time I ate one too. But at that moment, that’s the best that my brain could come up with, and once I had that in my head, my brain gave up on thinking of other options. It’s a brilliant idea, Aya! I told Matt. “Are you sure?” OMG…I can’t believe you just questioned me. Of course I’m sure. NOW GO GET ME ONE.
The next series of events I don’t remember much but it’s funny when I hear about it. I remember Matt coming to tell me my casserole was ready and if I wanted to eat it in bed, or downstairs. Frankly, I was sick of lying in bed so I thought I would go downstairs. After a half hour and I had only managed to crawl myself out to the hallway, I scratched that idea. Never mind. BRING IT TO ME. I crawled and climbed myself back to bed. Only to crawl right back out to the hallway after Matt came into the room with the casserole. Do you even know how much energy it took me to move myself that much?! That’s how foul the smell of it was and I didn’t even want to tell him to get it away from me because that meant I would have to open my mouth and breathe in more casserole fumes. So it seemed more logical to scamper away as quickly as I could. GET THAT THING AWAY FROM ME. And open a window while you’re at it too. Ugh… I found out that you have a one track mind when you’re in labor. You expend so much energy focusing on your body and trying to stay in tune with it, everything else is secondary. Which is why I somehow went back to entertaining the idea of eating the dang tuna noodle casserole again. And this time downstairs. I crawled down the stairs, and the stupid casserole was heated up again for the hundredth time. I wanted to sit in a chair at the dining room table. I stared at the thing for a second, held my breath and took a bite. Oh, this isn’t too bad. And then I took a breath. Oh gawd…I ran to the bathroom and threw it up. Impressively, all throughout the pain and nausea all morning, I hadn’t thrown up. Until then. Way to go, Stouffers.
In the midst of throwing up fruit smoothies and the one single bite of tuna noodle casserole I ate, Matt came into the bathroom to put his hand on my back. I remember thinking it was so sweet of him, because I honestly didn’t expect him to be by my side when I was throwing up. He doesn’t do vomit. I can respect that. He handles everything else. Although I have wondered how he was going to handle our child throwing up inevitably as she grew up. I suppose this was just early training. But it was so cute because as he’s telling me it’s okay and gently rubbing my back, I can tell he’s facing away from me as to not witness the action. Ahhh…love.
You know, besides the contractions, there are other things that first time pregnant women wonder what it’s going to be or feel like. Morning sickness, Braxton Hicks, your water breaking, oh yeah, and your mucus plug dropping. So wait, what is it like? What does it look like? Do you feel anything? Well, it looks just like it sounds. I’ll just leave it at that.Â I didn’t feel anything, and I wasn’t surprised to see it either. This was after I tried to shove down Stouffer’s Tuna Noodle Casserole. What’s so surprising after that? Thank goodness I was sitting on the toilet when it happened though. At this point, I’m deep into labor and I have no shame. ZERO. So I yell for Matt to ask his mom for a panty liner. What’s wrong with that? Who knew what else was going to come out unexpectedly. If I could avoid having things drip down my leg, I would like to thankyouverymuch.
After that, it was what felt like hours of just lying on the couch in the living room, holding Matt’s hand and squeezing them blue during a contraction and him timing them. The midwife told Matt to not head over until the contractions were consistently 7 minutes apart. They do know that we’re an hour and a half away, right? At this point it’s almost 4:00pm. Finally, at around 10 minutes apart I told Matt, I don’t care. We’re heading over there. NOW. I didn’t want to be in hard labor while I was sitting in a car, strapped in a seatbelt for an hour and a half. Plus, it was close to rush hour traffic. We.Are.Going.Now!!!!!
Matt packed up everything, got the car started, and I moseyed my way to the front door. If I were racing his 90 year old grandmother, she would’ve won. Matt’s dad held the door open and his mom gently helped me into the car and kissed me good luck. I thought they were so sweet…after unexpectedly invading their house, dropping a mucus plug in their toilet, and barely speaking or looking at them. How rude of me. But how sweet of them! I thought.
I got myself situated in the car, gripped the seatbelt with one hand, Matt’s hand with the other, and closed my eyes. JUST GET ME THERE.