My body had been growing our sweet girl for 39 weeks. I wandered to the bathroom at 12:30am, another late night bathroom break, and as I began to crawl back into bed my water broke. There was no mistaking it. I blurted out, “My water just broke!” and Chris sprung up from his slumber. We took a minute to calm ourselves. We were surprised since I had had no previous signs of labor, and then we began to collect ourselves. I made a call to my OBGYN, took a quick shower, and Chris gathered up our last minute items and packed them away into our bags.
We arrived at the hospital around 2:00am, with my first real contraction occurring in the parking lot. We checked in at the ER and were promptly wheeled upstairs to labor and delivery. We got settled and acclimated with our room, and I slipped into the deep bathtub full of warm, soothing water. It didn’t relieve the pain as I had hoped. Warm water is no match for back labor. After a few contractions in the water, I made my way back to bed. Contractions were unforgiving and followed each other with what seemed like minimal recovery time in between. Chris was a quiet support and provided me water when my mouth got too dry; my nurse worked overtime providing pressure on my back and encouragement with each contraction.
The pain seemed unbearable. I couldn’t imagine coping with such intensity for hours more. I cocooned myself in a way I had not expected. I often closed my eyes and reached deep within myself to find focus and strength. Chris quietly reminded me when and how to breathe. Before I knew it, my body was starting to push, and I could do nothing to prevent it. A short three hours later from when we arrived, I was fully dilated and ready to push this baby out into the world.
My OB got there in time, much to my comfort and relief. She raised my bed; I sat up, put my feet in the awkward stirrups, and got ready to push. I took a minute to take in the scene. It wouldn’t be much longer, and we would be holding this baby that we had longed for. This much-awaited moment was around the corner, and all this waiting was soon to be behind us. During labor, I cursed my contractions. I wanted them to stop and cringed when I felt them approach. But when it was time to push, I eagerly anticipated the next. I knew that these contractions provided me the opportunity to see my baby that much sooner.
After 45 minutes of hard work and pushing, at 5:45 Monday morning, June 10, 2013, our world changed. Nora Emerson Ray emerged into the world, bright eyed, and totally aware of her surroundings. She stared at me, and I at her, tears filling my eyes, and sheer love and amazement filling my heart. She was perfect; all 6 pounds and 10 ounces of her. After a few minutes, her cord was cut, and her daddy held her in his arms. My heart couldn’t have been more full as I watched the two people I love most look into each other’s eyes and fall in love. The text messages and phone calls of her arrival soon followed, and everyone was overjoyed at the news of her healthy birth. Before we left the delivery room, Nora had latched onto my breast, and we started the beautiful process of breast-feeding. This day was the beginning of a new way of life, a new and better way of living. We had in our arms the greatest earthly gift we could have been entrusted. A sweet baby girl, big blue eyes and a head full of hair, was ours to love, guide, and share life with for many days to come.
Birth was worth it. All those days of nausea and discomfort were worth it. Sleepless nights and unproductive days are more than worth it. We love that we had a natural birth, and that we were blessed with opportunity to create our own birth experience. It was hard work, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I feel proud on this side of it. My body grew a baby for 39 weeks, and successfully delivered that baby into this world, and now the world is a better place because of it.
What was the hardest part?
The hardest part for me was my back labor. Back labor came as a surprise to us because the position of our baby hadn’t indicated that back labor would be a possibility. The pain was almost unbearable because of this element of my labor, and it made it very difficult to breathe properly or to relax my body between and during contractions.
What was the most surprising to you?
I was surprised at how fast my birth progressed. I was prepared for the long haul, 10 hours plus, with this being my first birth. I was pleasantly surprised that from beginning to end it was only 5.25 hours. It’s a good reminder that every birth is different. There are general things to expect, but every woman and baby are different so anything goes when it comes to birth!
How did the difficulty level meet your expectations?
To be honest, it was far more difficult than I understood it to be. In my hypnobirthing class, labor was described as “uncomfortable” but not painful. The doula that led our class said that dropping a can of green beans on her toe was more painful than birth. All I can say is I would have traded my back labor for a pile of cans filled with green beans! I understand the concept of minimizing fear in order to empower pregnant moms to approach their births with strength and calm, but I wish someone would had been honest about the challenges and pain of birth.
What was the best thing you did to prepare?
I think from the beginning I was able to realize and come to terms with the fact that our birth story was not our own. We could plan, we could prepare, and we could hope, but ultimately it was going to unfold the way it was going to unfold. I really believe my sense of flexibility and willingness to change our rough draft of a birth plan aided in the success of our birth and helped me avoided the feeling of disappointment.
What was your most effective form of pain control?
My labor and delivery nurse, Julie, was a Godsend. She applied pressure to my lower back and in my hips to help counteract the pain during my contractions, and this allowed me to progress through my labor without an epidural.
Do you have any advice for pregnant moms?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. As a pregnant mom, there are so many things you should be doing. Eating the right foods, drinking enough fluids, taking your prenatals, getting enough exercise each day, getting enough rest, reading the right books, getting the entire nursery ready, and the list goes on. Do what you can. All of the above things are important, but they don’t define what type of mother you are going to be, and some things simply come out in the wash. Relax. Enjoy the pregnancy. And don’t caught in the trap or allowing the pressure of the “should’s” to take away from the beauty and awe of the pregnancy itself.