Somehow I’ve been blogging for six years without ever blogging any of my birth stories. But celebrating our oldest daughter’s birthday a few weeks ago, and then being with our second daughter when she gave birth, got me thinking of my first birth experience. I wish I’d written more back then; I’m sure I’ve forgotten so many details. But here is what I remember about the birth of our Amanda, the beautiful now-grown girl who first made me a mother, and who is expecting her own baby very soon.
She was due in late January and we planned to have her at the birthing center where my mother worked as an OB nurse. Thanks to my mom, I already knew a bit about childbirth. For much of my childhood, my mother taught childbirth classes in our basement family room, and often I’d sit just around the corner on the stairs to listen in on the class. Before I was 16, I’d read most of the books in her childbirth library. I’d also been present when my mom gave birth to my three youngest siblings at home.
When it came close to time to deliver my own baby, I don’t remember being especially nervous. Curious, eager to do this thing, and incredibly excited to see our baby, but not really nervous. The childbirth classes that John and I took with a bunch of other first time parents were interesting, and we dutifully practiced the breathing.
My due date came and went. A week passed. And another. When I was two weeks overdue, we went in for an appointment and the doctor decided it was time to break my water. He did so, and sent us home to wait for contractions. It was Monday afternoon.
Since nothing was happening at first, my mom encouraged me to take a nap. I tried, but I was too excited, and too intent on waiting to feel those first twinges of labor. Around 9 PM Monday evening I started having contractions, and within a couple hours they were hard. I remember walking around the living room in between contractions, then kneeling during contractions on the green shag carpet and leaning on a little stool, rocking and breathing.
Mom talked to me on the phone a few times, then around midnight came to see how things were going. When she checked, I was disappointed to find that I was still 2-3 centimeters, about the same that I’d been when the doctor broke my water earlier in the day. This might take awhile.
My mom had always had slow labors. Twenty-four hours or so was normal for her, even after she’d had multiple kids. She encouraged me to save my energy and rest in between contractions. I remember her settling me on my side in bed with a cocoon of pillows around me, then later moving me to the couch and settling me in there. John and mom both dozed during the night too. But with contractions every 5 minutes or so, none of us slept much.
By the time the sun came up on Tuesday morning I was nauseated and vomiting, still having contractions steadily, still not progressing much. I remember watching the grey February daylight growing in our living room, and thinking that today, certainly, our baby would be born.
Mom went home to sleep for a few hours. John hung in there with me, dozing between contractions, and waking to breathe with me during each contraction. By late morning I was tired of laboring at home, and still vomiting. Mom decided maybe it would be good to go to the birthing center and get some IV fluids for hydration.
On the way to the birthing center, our little Chevy Luv died. Just quit, about half a mile away from the birthing center. There was snow on the ground. My contractions were clicking right along still, and when John got out of the car to use a neighbor’s phone, I felt a surge of panic, which grew as he stood chatting with the person for what seemed like forever after using their phone.
Not long after that, mom came to get us, and we left the truck there to be dealt with later. Once we got to the birthing center, Mom started my IV and then checked to see if I was dilated. By then I’d made it to 4 centimeters or so. I sat in the rocking chair that I’d brought from home and rocked, trying to distract myself. Mom and John sat on either side of me talking quietly, and then breathing with me though contractions. During one contraction I got irritated with the conversation and told them to be quiet. Later I felt apologetic about being cranky, but at the time that talking had.to.stop. I was tired, and felt emotionally done with this. It was a good thing that I didn’t know how much longer I still had to go.
The birthing center had a nice shower with a seat in it. Several times during the next hours I went and sat in the shower, which helped a lot with the pain. Until the water ran cold, anyway. As Tuesday evening turned into Tuesday night, the contractions got harder. John and my mom took turns putting pressure on my back, which helped a lot with the pain. I remember John sitting in a chair next to my bed, and laying his head down on the bed to doze between contractions. Sometimes he’d keep sleeping through the start of a contraction, and I’d wake him in a panic, needing him to press on my back again.
As long and hard as my labor was, I don’t think I ever thought of pain medication. I was miserable and wanted to be done, but I’d decided long before to have an unmedicated birth, and I never wavered from that choice, not even in my head.
Late Tuesday evening, finally, I was starting to progress, maybe a centimeter every two hours. Still slow, but better than the previous night. I moved to the ‘hee-hee-hoo’ (late-labor) breathing many hours before I actually hit transition. But the other option– slow mellow breathing– didn’t work for me. I was not feeling slow or mellow, despite my pokey progress.
After a long night of labor, finally, finally around 6:00 Wednesday morning, it was time to push. That was hard work too, but an incredibly tremendous relief. Finally I could do something to hurry this along. It suited me much better than what I’d been doing for the last 33 hours. Amanda was born at 7:04 AM, and surprised the doctor by weighing a very respectable 8 pounds 8 ounces. (He’d been expecting me to have a 7 pound baby.)
John, who’d been hoping for a boy, took exactly 5 seconds to fall completely in love with his little girl. And as for me, I’d been hoping for a girl all along. She had tons of black hair, and chubby cheeks and arms. She was completely gorgeous in every way, and utterly worth every minute of labor. We couldn’t take our eyes off her. What a blessing. What a gift. What an amazing day.