Henry: a birth story

When I think back to how our son came into this world, it was nothing like I pictured. In the ideal situation in my mind, I would have birthed Henry naturally, in a room with low light, perhaps some of my favorite music playing in the background, while my husband stood next to me, encouraging me to push, push, push, as both welcomed Henry into the world. And although nothing of the sort happened, although Henry was born in a bright, sterile white room, pulled out of my body by someone else, my lower half numb and unmoving, the experience was no less beautiful. The beauty comes from the result of the past 10 months- the fact that my body grew this beautiful person, half my husband, and half me...and however Henry needed to get here is irrelevant. What matters is that he is here. And this is that story --

My labor began on Saturday, so when I think back to my initial description of the birth, when I stated that I had 9 hours of labor- this is untrue. I had been laboring since Saturday evening, and labored throughout the entire day on Sunday. The 9 hours can be attributed to the 9 hours I spent laboring in the hospital, but my true labor lasted much longer. I had been having contractions since Wednesday, but they were irregular and mostly happened throughout the night and would stop in the morning. On Thursday evening (my due date) they were a bit stronger, but suddenly on Friday I slept through the entire night, a full 9 or 10 hours, and woke up feeling totally "un-pregnant," if that's even possible at 40 weeks and 1 day. Saturday was pretty uneventful until I began to experience contractions in the early evening. They lasted all night at around 10 minutes apart, and into Sunday morning. Throughout Sunday they began to pick up in intensity, and were getting closer and closer together. 10 minutes, 9 minutes, 8 minutes. I tried to rest throughout the day but as the afternoon progressed I began to get more and more uncomfortable. I spent the evening doing yoga, bouncing on the birthing ball, and watching really bad reality television. :) As the evening came upon us the timing started to get very close, and around 9 or 10 pm they started to get about 5 minutes apart. I remember calling my best friend Autumn, who is a mother of two, and asking if she thought I should head to the birthing center. I talked with her and my Mom throughout this time trying to figure out if we should go, but me, being a worrier, was concerned that if we went too early they would just send me back home. Even though I was uncomfortable I wasn't necessarily in a lot of pain, so it was hard to say. Everyone had told me "you'll just know when it's time," but I really didn't. At 11 we decided to just head over though, because it was getting hard for me to walk through the contractions.

The car ride over was so exciting. We live about 15 minutes away, and Hank and I just kept saying how crazy it was that this was really it. The anticipation of meeting our little guy was through the roof, and the idea that within a day or two at most he would be here was amazing. We arrived at the birthing center around 11:30pm and was taken in triage where I was checked to see what my progress was. Again, being the worrier I am I was thinking I was only dilated to 3cm at the most, so Hank and I were blown away when the nurse informed me I was almost 8cm and needed to be admitted now. We made our way back to our room, #1010, put our bags away, and got ready to have Henry! I was so excited; I felt proud of myself that I had labored so successfully at home and I was, for lack of a better word, pumped to give birth.

My goal was to have natural labor, and because I had gone so far without medication and was still progressing pretty rapidly, I really felt that this was attainable and within reach. A nurse came in to start my IV line "just in case" (ha) and it took a good hour for her- and four or five other nurses- to find an appropriate vein. Apparently my veins are extremely tiny so they had to use a pediatric IV line. They poked my arms and hands so many times and since I am pretty queasy about needles of the non-tattoo variety it was pretty much an nightmare! They got it though, and I continued to labor and deal with my contractions.

Time went on, hours went by, and one of the doctors came in to break my water when I was about 8.5-9cm. Much to my surprise this didn't hurt at all and it was strange to feel the gush of water come out. Around this point I started to feel extreme pain in my lower back, and this only progressively got worse. Apparently I was having back labor which I had heard about, but didn't think would happen to me. In our birthing class our instructors told us that it happens with about 25% of women, and comes from the baby's position- it's head or spine rubs against the mother's spine or tailbone, causing extreme pain. I found that the best position for me to deal with this was in bed, with Hank pressing my knees to my chest with each contraction. It took quite a bit of pressure off of my back, and even though it hurt like hell I was still okay and remained in a pretty positive mindset.

This is where my story changes a bit. Up until this point I had been having what I consider a good experience, and even though I was going through transition and really hurting, it was nothing I couldn't handle. Then out of nowhere I began to feel horrible. And being that I have a HIGH pain tolerance horrible for me is bad. I felt like there was a piece of my body ripping in two with every contraction, my lower back being pulled and twisted, every fiber of my body wrenched apart. I started to throw up. I couldn't stop, and when I did I was tired and started questioning myself and everything about my intention to continue on a natural path. I wasn't yet at 10cm, so they weren't allowing me to push yet, and I had to fight the pushing through breathing, which was one of the most challenging things I've ever done.

After awhile the doctor on call came in and let me know it was indeed time to push. I was beyond excited because after hours of labor I was so happy to know there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and I had still stuck to my original, natural plan even though I had reservations about it towards the end. I started to push, about 3 or 4 times every contraction, and it felt good in a strange way. It still hurt, but it was almost a relief to be able to do something, anything, during the contractions rather than just ride them out through breathing.

I pushed and pushed, and after about 30 minutes of this the doctor came in again to check my progress. He let me know that Henry was in a turned position, and due to this he was having a hard time getting past my pubic bone. Furthermore, Henry was bigger than I was wide, and he said that it would be very hard if not impossible for me to get him out if he didn't turn just right. For the next hour and a half the nurses had me pushing in different positions- hanging from a birthing bar while squatting, on all fours, on my side with my feet in one of the stirrups...but nothing was turning him. 2 hours had gone past and while this was all happening I was being periodically checked. No change, no change, no change. It was so incredibly disheartening to hear the doctor come in over and over again to take a look and tell me that Henry was in the same position, and all of the hard work I'd been doing had been for nothing. The nurse had to put a monitor into his scalp, and when she did she told me that he had so much hair, and even though this was encouraging (he had moved down enough for her to see), it was still hard because even though I had been working so hard for two hours he was still stuck, and after those two hours, I was no closer to meeting our son.

The pushing was the worst part. Because of the way he was turned, his head kept hitting my pubic bone over and over and over again. All of a sudden a monitor starting beeping and people rushed in. They let us know that Henry's heart rate was dropping and there was no way that he was going to be able to be pushed out, but he needed to come out, now. This was heartbreaking for me to hear, because I knew once they said that that my only option was a c-section.

My disappointment aside, this whole thing was extremely terrifying to me for a number of reasons- one, I was laying there in this bed, writhing around in terrible pain, only to be told that my son was in danger and I had to have emergency surgery. Imagining our sweet boy in danger, knowing that his heart rate was decreasing, was the scariest feeling I've ever had. And two, I don't even take medicine when I have a headache, and now I was going to have to have spinal tap along with who knows what kind of drugs pumped through my body. I was worried about the drugs affecting Henry- there were so many scary what-ifs that began to run through my head that I just wanted to stop everything and cry my eyes out. But I couldn't. The contractions kept coming, the urge to push remained, and even though I was going to be in surgery within thirty minutes, I had to deal with NOT pushing during this time. I was so scared- they told me that Henry's head was hitting bone over and over, and they tried to get me to breath through the urge to push rather than full-on push every time. This was so, so painful and truly the worst thing I have ever experienced in my life. At one point I remember looking up at Hank and just saying "please please please make this stop." He had tears in his eyes, and I saw how terrified he was. He had just seen his wife go through this crazy thing for the past few hours, and he still couldn't do a thing to help me.

I thought awhile about how I could try and describe the pain that I felt in this situation, and everything I went through. I definitely don't think my experience is unique- I know that most people's birth experience isn't perfect- labor hurts, contractions can be hell, and things go "wrong." I wish I could somehow though, convey more about how it feels to have something inside of you that needs to come out, but that won't. It's bizarre, and I can truly say that this was the worst and also the BEST experience of my life. Worst for obvious reasons, and best for obvious reasons too. You can plan all you want, you can have an idea of the kind of birth you want to have, but when it comes down to it, it is completely out of your control if circumstances don't go as planned. I thought about this as I was trying to push through the pain towards the end of the 30 minutes I waited for the anesthesiologist to arrive. I was trying to focus on anything. I just kept thinking of my sweet boy waiting for me and it got me through it.

Finally the anesthesiologist got there and I was wheeled away to the OR. Luckily my doctor was the doctor who just came on call for the day and it was so comforting to have him be the one operating on me. And even better, he is known for his "great" c-sections. Hank was in scrubs but had to wait outside until they gave me the spinal, and that was hard, but I knew he would be with me soon. The spinal tap was so scary to me- epidurals have always terrified me beyond belief, and this was just a more extreme version of that. I was still having contractions so the doctor had to wait until I was between one to administer the drug, and honestly it stung for a second but it was so quick and almost immediately all of my pain was gone and I didn't experience another contraction. Sweet, sweet relief. I started to go numb, and pretty soon I couldn't feel a thing below my chest. Hank came in and they let me know that they were starting the operation. All I felt was pressure, and I kept asking what the doctors were doing so they basically talked me through the entire thing. Soon I felt almost a shaking and a strong pressure, and my doctor told Hank to peer over the sheet...and they pulled Henry out of my body. Immediately I heard him cry, and turned my head to the left as they showed our beautiful, beautiful son to me. They brought him over to the table on the left and Hank cut his umbilical cord as they cleaned him up and checked him out.

Right after Henry was born I started shaking uncontrollably to point of my head hitting the operating table and my arms acting on their own. The nurses let me know that this was from both the drugs in my system and adrenaline. At this point I had numerous drugs running through my body, including pitocin, which they had administered to get my placenta to detach from my body so they could remove it before they sewed me up. The nurses gave me another drug to take away the shaking, but it took awhile before it subsided completely.

It's amazing because I thought that I would be devastated that I couldn't hold Henry right away. I really anticipated feeling crushed that I had to watch all of these nurses and doctors have these first moments with our son, but I still haven't had an upset thought about the way I gave birth, and this really surprises me. I expected to be upset, but all that matters is that Henry was born safely. Later when the nurses told me that Henry wouldn't have survived in a different environment, it put a lot into perspective. When I heard that first cry and saw him being lifted up over the white sheet they had hanging over my chest, it was a defining moment in my life. I became a Mom. I am a Mom. Our son now exists in this world, and because of that nothing else matters. Whether he was born naturally or born by cutting my body open, he was born. And this is the most beautiful thing in the entire world.

Happy birthday, Henry. You are my heart.

Happy birthday sweet boy!