...since my sweet little Sasha was born. You old time visitors will recall the saga that was my pregnancy... and still, this is a bittersweet time for me. I am mourning the passing of my baby days. It's time stop focusing on having them, and start focusing on raising them.
I love Sasha's birth story. I never miss an opportunity to share it; it is such a tale of triumph, and was such a journey for us.
On July 3, 2006 I woke up feeling a little bit of pressure and back pain associated with my contractions (which had been going on for some time). I took it easy throughout the morning - getting in and out of the bathtub, lying down, drinking plenty of fluids… just trying to decipher this from any other day. I called my doula Laura and discussed my symptoms with her and she felt like I should go into the hospital and at least get checked. After lots of thought and prayer, Andrew and I decided she was right… we just didn’t want to have another false alarm disappoint us. Getting out the door proved to be a challenge in and of itself. There was an entire bottle of juice spilled on the kitchen floor, lots of anxiety from the kids who were excited to have a “sleepover “, and a napless Drew to contend with. I actually sat down on the sofa at one point and said, “I refuse to have the baby under these conditions. Today is NOT the day!” I was fully convinced that I could talk my body out of labor. After all, I’d been doing it for months!
We got to the hospital around 4:30pm. At my OB appointment on Friday I had been 1-2cm dilated, 80% effaced and Sasha was quite low already… below 0 station. But my cervix was still posterior. Upon arrival at the hospital, I was 4 cm and 90% effaced, plus my cervix had moved forward, which had brought baby back up a bit but was really of no concern since that stubborn cervix had finally done its job! They called me “in active labor”, but my body really wasn’t doing it yet. I didn’t feel in sync at all and figured it would be as it was with Drew… that I would walk around at 4cm for a couple weeks. Disappointed, Andrew and I decided that rather than sit in the hospital infinitely waiting for something to happen, like being talked into getting labor augmented, we’d go home. The nurse strongly suggested we walk the halls for an hour first and see if there was any change. We knew there wouldn’t be (or that it would be minimal, if anything) but we agreed. Laura was with us and helped me through the few contractions I was having here and there… they were getting stronger and closer together, but I still was not convinced! It really did not feel as if my body had completely agreed to go into labor yet. After walking the halls for an hour I got checked again and was closer to 5cm dilated. By now it was after 6pm and I was hungry and uncomfortable in the tiny triage room. They wanted to monitor the baby for 20 minutes, during which time I had 3 contractions that required me to focus. During my last one, the OB on call came in and said she wished me the best, all the time watching this huge contraction peak on the monitor. I did my best not to show my discomfort. As if she believed that I wasn’t really feeling it! At this point I really didn’t know that I wasn’t in labor. In fact I was pretty sure things were “syncing up” now. But I knew I’d be miserable if I didn’t get somewhere more comfortable before active labor really began, and get some food in my system. So, with Laura’s full agreeance, we decided to go get ourselves some dinner and just see what happened at home on the birth ball and in the bathtub. The children were already taken care of and our friends were more than happy to keep them while we waited to see what my body would do. I signed an AMA (“Against Medical Advice“) to get out of the hospital. Once in the car, contractions came much, much closer together… almost on top of each other. They were getting painful, too. It just didn’t feel right to me, though. They seemed too close and too sudden, so we continued on our way home, stopping to pick up some dinner first. I knew I needed to wait for the contractions to space out and get even stronger before I’d be in active labor, so I was feeling calm and collected. I practiced breathing through each one, focusing on relaxing my entire body and letting nature take it course. I took bites of my burrito between the contractions on my birth ball at home. Andrew was watching wrestling on TV. After eating I decided to get in the bathtub for about 30 minutes, which felt great! I was almost wishing I’d decided on a water birth at that point, it was just so relaxing and comforting. I‘d been taking baths for a couple weeks to calm my prodromal contractions. The fact that they stayed strong this time told me something. Plus, it was at this point that they spaced out to an even 3 minutes. So, I could clearly see how many women preferred birthing in water.
As things got stronger and more organized, I knew without a doubt that this was it and that we needed to head back to the hospital. Only 2 hours had passed since leaving the hospital when we returned to it. It was now 9:15pm. I was admitted immediately and had reached 6cm. From this point, I had to get into a zone, find a voice for my contractions, move from the ball to the edge of the bed to my side once transition hit. I began to shake and Andrew rubbed my legs. Either Laura or Andrew was constantly fanning my face. The music we had compiled was very helpful in keeping me calm and relaxed. Laura read affirmations to me that gave me some relaxing imagery. As transition came to an end Andrew and Laura took turns providing counter pressure to my back as Sasha moved down the birth canal. It was then that I reached a point where I truly did not think I could handle the surges. I just couldn’t get on top of them anymore… the pain was definitely no longer under my control with any breathing or thoughts or music. Laura got to thinking that shaking + nausea + doubt probably meant I was close to complete (10 cm) so she suggested I get checked. I wasn’t sure if I wanted any disturbance at that point, but was anxious to see how far I’d come. This was my first check since being admitted. Lo and behold, the nurse proclaimed me complete! It was midnight and I could push as soon as I felt the urge. I was in shock, but also feeling very reassured. I had made it all the way to 10 cm before questioning myself. I knew now that Sasha was just minutes away, if only I could find my momentum to push her out. I said a few times “How am I going to do this?“ I guess I was a bit scared. My nurse Darlene said, “You ARE doing it!“ I just couldn’t believe it was happening, that this challenge was almost mine.
My body was not quite telling me what I needed to do yet, so I used a few contractions to experiment with pushing positions. I ended up being the most comfortable with a squatting bar over the bed (which I sat on the very edge of) and with Andrew behind me supporting and continuing to rub my lower back. And he had to do so quite vigorously. I also had to lean back into him just to keep from jumping out of that bed in utter pain. But leaning back quickly proved to be counteractive to pushing, which my body was really beginning to want to do, so I had to lean into my contractions, going against my instincts. This did not feel right for a few more contractions, but I finally got in tune and found my momentum, and pushing was a relief ! At that point something else took over completely. I could feel Sasha’s head with my own hand as I pushed. I felt totally in tune with her now and with bringing her into the world. The room was very quiet. The nurses were incredibly respectful. I hardly knew there was anyone there but me, Andrew and Laura… but there were also 3 nurses and the OB on call, Dr. Southmayde. They trusted me completely to know what to do and let me find my way through it all. I did nothing conventionally… I breathed through each contraction. There was no counting to 10. I just pushed when I felt the urge and for as long as I wanted and as many times during he contractions as I wanted. They did not quiet me or correct me at all.
I began to chant “I” while Laura said “I can do this!” for me. Andrew was getting emotional behind me I could tell. Iz was singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” as Sasha emerged. I don’t believe it was coincidence that this was also a song that I deeply associated with my late mother. It was comforting to hear that song again at this very moment and I felt some part of Mom was there watching me give birth to her granddaughter. And then came Gladys singing “I Am a Child of God”. Talk about perfect timing.
First the head. Immediate relief and rush of endorphins. Then my water finally broke. And the shoulders and the rest of her quickly followed. July 4th, 12:38am, 8 lbs. 12oz. and 21 inches long. I was overjoyed and emotional and feeling as if I were on top of Mt. Everest. She was perfect in every way, with lots of black hair and big brown eyes. Long, graceful fingers. She came out loud, ravenous and ready to eat! Latched on right away. Everything felt surreal for quite some time. As we called to deliver the wonderful news to our friends and family, I was feeling high and elated in a way I’d never experienced after birth. I had done it. My body had gone into labor on its own. I had experienced it in one fell swoop, from beginning to end, without stops and starts spread out over weeks. Without augmentation or artificial rupture of membranes or an epesiotomy. Without an epidural! And WITH a team of incredibly supportive and respectful medical professionals. It was the most amazing and strengthening experience for both Andrew and I and we knew instantly why we’d been compelled to go the route we did.
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