I woke up to Wendy quietly entering the room. It was almost 6'clock at night, 24 hours since my water had broken, and about an hour until the nurse's change of shift. Wendy checked me and, suddenly slightly anxious, told me that I was fully dilated and ready to push. I couldn't believe that our plan actually worked - I actually got to sleep, thanks to the epidural, and my cervix continued dilating, and now I was actually going to push a baby out of my body.
And I was going to see and touch and hold my baby boy! I was amazed and excited and everything felt surreal.
Wendy said she would be right back and then we could start trying to push. Even though I wanted J to continue resting, I called his name, knowing that he couldn't miss this. Plus, what if I only had to push a few times?! He woke up and I knew he had the same surreal, hyperaware feelings that I did, and I could tell he was a little nervous. We both felt ALIVE.
I wanted to make sure we got both of our moms in the room so that they could watch BB be born. When I told Wendy that we needed to get our moms before I started pushing, she laughed, or maybe I could just tell that she wanted to, and told me that it would probably be a while. I secretly kept thinking that he might just come out in just a few pushes, so we better make sure the grandmas were available, and I think I sent J out to grab them before my "practice" pushes. I also kept reminding Wendy that I wanted a mirror positioned so that I could watch the birth until the mirror was in place. I did not want tomiss this!
Once Wendy had her supplies ready, with J by my side I tried pushing for the very first time, following some advice from a friend that "it is exactly like pushing out a bowel movement". I couldn't feel anything when I pushed, thanks to the epidural, and I couldn't sense when I was having a contraction, so I followed Wendy's instructions on when to push. After some practice pushes and my mom and J's mom were there, and I started the "real" pushing, with my mom holding my left leg, and J holding my right leg. So much for my "maybe it will just take a few pushes" idea. As I continued pushing, I was increasingly able to sense when I was having a contraction, although Wendy was still cueing me, and at some point Dr. D came and stayed too and would cue me to push.
After a while I would sometimes wait to start pushing even though I knew I was contracting before the monitors reflected it and they cued me - pushing was such hard work! I tried to really focus all of my energy only into the push, and not waste any energy tensing up my neck, shoulders, legs. Focusing on relaxing some parts of my body while pushing took every bit of my mental and physical strength, as my instincts were to just tense up my entire body. But I had read in my Bradley book that I needed to focus the energy so that it wasn't wasted. I experienced a similar state of consciousness when I was pushing to when I was laboring without the epidural - a chaotic feeling in my body and outside of it as it slaved to this work, but my mind fairly calm while focused and consumed only with the physical work, a strange paradox. I used these times to pray - no ornate words, just "Help me, God. Help me push him out. Help me do this." I couldn't think very far past the physical demands.
After an hour of pushing it was time for the nurses and doctors to change shift, and Wendy told me I could take a break, which I gratefully (indulgently) accepted. When they returned, the night nurse was Erin, my nurse from the second half of the previous night, and Dr. S, who I had never met. I remember Erin sarcastically saying to another nurse "Wendy told her..." about something I had stated to Erin - she was clearly annoyed with Wendy, and I immediately felt defensive of my quirky and nonjudgemental nurse Wendy and a stronger dislike of Erin. Praise God that for all of the bedside manner that Erin lacked, Dr. S. just emanated. She came in, several months pregnant herself, talked to me like a friend, and calmly coached me through the rest of my labor. Her coaching was friendly yet authoritative, and for me it was a magic combination and I was so encouraged.
So after the 20-25 minute break for the shift change I was back to pushing, now with my new BFF Dr. S. manning the helm (yeah, that's what we'll call that.). The next set of memories from this time are all just snippets:
At one point my mom had started setting down my left leg in between contractions, and I asked "Mom, are you getting tired?" and everyone laughed. Looking back, I understand the irony of my concern.
At some point, I spiked a temp. I remember someone saying "103 degrees". Antibiotics were administered through my IV. Worried glances were exchanged between my mom and J's mom. I observed these things but couldn't process them until later, as it was all peripheral noise to the cacophony playing full-blast in my mind and body.
I had been doing three big pushes with contractions and taking (brief) breaks between the contractions, and I started having heartburn on every third push, heartburn that worsened the harder I pushed, and it made me stop pushing too early and I knew I wasn't pushing as effectively because of it. I told Dr. S. and she deliberated a moment and then told the nurse to get me something. It came in a little cup, I smelled it, wrinkled my nose while looking at my mom who looked apprehensive, and swallowed it in one gulp. As I swallowed, my mom was already grabbing the bin, and I immediately wretched and vomited. I emptied my stomach, and I could taste the apple juice I was so happy I could have earlier as it came back up. BUT despite that not being the medication's intended effect, with my stomach emptied, the heartburn was gone and I was able to push strong through all three pushes again.
I remember feeling like my whole head was going to explode from the pressure of pushing - all of my straining felt concentrated in my face.
I have a fuzzy memory of the doctor telling me "We're only going to let you go for three hours" and acknowledging it - again, I observed this statement, but could not mentally process it's implications, didn't mentally process it until days after the birth when I realized that she meant that she was only going to let me push for three hours, and then she would take me for a C-section. Because we had been pushing for over 2 hours, and it had not once occurred to me during this process that I might not deliver vaginally.
And lo and behold, after all those hours of pushing and praying and straining and fevering and vomiting, Dr. S. finally saw BB's head, and my mom said "Oh, he has hair!" I opened my eyes and looked in the mirror and all of the sudden my energy was renewed. Oh yes, this is about a baby, MY baby, there is a REASON for all of this work, and it's that little head with wet dark hair that I can actually see.
All of the sudden the whole room changed - someone removed the foot of the bed and Erin jumped on the phone and said "I need Nursery, now." And I realized oh my gosh, it's TIME. They're getting Nursery because he's almost out! And I decided in that moment to forget all of the Bradley relaxation rules and to just push without thinking about any of that other stuff, to push like it's the push that would push him out, and that's what I told myself in private pep talks with the next pushes, "THIS IS IT - THIS IS THE PUSH!" With the first of these pushes J stumbled because my legs, which I'd tried to keep relaxed, tensed and shot out with no warning - he later said that I almost knocked him across the room! And Dr. S. said "Okay, whatever you just did, keep doing it! That's IT!" And after a few of these (and yes, everytime I told myself that THIS IS THE PUSH!), I opened my eyes just in time to see BB's head and body all come out in one big push. They quickly wiped him and handed him right to me. He let out one mewing cry and then in my arms he opened his dark grey eyes and blinked, silent, looking from side to side, my little observer, just as he still is. I was saying "Hi BB, Hi" and rubbing him, and Erin said "Did anyone tell you it's a boy?" Well, no, they didn't, but I had definitely already called him by his name and it hadn't even occured to me that it might not be!
After a minute they took BB to measure him and J and I looked at each other, smiled, and both welled up. I will never forget that moment or the amazement and joy I saw on J's face.
We had a son.
7 pounds and 1 ounce
20 3/4 inches long