3 am wake up.
During the course of pregnancy I’d come to recognize this as my nightly bathroom break, or perhaps it was time to shift to the other side because baby had decided it was time to practice her ballet bar then.
This was very, very different.
I couldn’t breathe at first. I sat straight up an immediately regretted it. My husband slept beside me and I didn’t want to wake him up in a panic if it was another false alarm. I grabbed my phone, flipped on the stop watch and started timing. Contractions: 5 minutes apart, lasting for a minute… 20 minutes.
They had us practice in our birthing class holding ice in our bare hands to feel the pain and breathe through it. Sounds crazy but that ice burns like a mo-fo and without that mental prep, I could see how it was easy to grab the nearest intern and roar for drugs before you rip out their heart. I’m luckily stubborn enough that it worked. Time to wake up the husband.
“What?! What’s wrong!”
“Are you sure? We can call the midwife.”
“No. It’s time.” 10 minutes or so later my husband and my mom had me in the car and we were on our way. It was the most painful car ride I’ve ever endured. Not sure if it was the pain or my mom and my husband cracking really bad jokes to take my focus off the pain. Either way the drive sucked big time. Mom dropped us at the front entrance. I’m praying the doors are unlocked because I really don’t want to waddle through emergency and then up to the birthing center. Luck was on our side. Contractions: 4-5 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute for the last 45 minutes.
My husband checks us in at Swedish Hospital in Ballard and fills out any paper work not already prepared in our birthing plan folder. The midwife comes in and they get me into a gown, explain that they still have to check my cervix to determine if they should keep me for now or send me home.
“You made it to 5 cm dilated before coming in? I’m impressed”
“I told you I have a high pain tolerance.”
The first thing they did was put me on antibiotics with a locked IV in case I needed a bath or shower during the process. About 2 weeks prior I had tested positive for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) which is normal and occurs in 25% of healthy adult women, but can be harmful to newborns. Ergo, antibiotics.
For the first several hours not a lot happened. Meaning I did a lot of breathing and bracing through contractions. Friends started to show up. My vitals were taken, we monitored baby and the routine parade of medical professionals made their presence known to me, who they were and what their specialty was. I was tough. I can handle this. Just breathe.
Around 12 hours I broke down.
I was ready for an epidural. I felt like I had failed. I had wanted so desperately to have a drug free delivery, and with my scoliosis, it was incredibly risky .
I even had second thoughts when my midwife came in, asking her to check how dilated I was because if I was getting close enough to push then it wasn’t worth it. Then the mother of all contractions hit me and I couldn’t breathe at all. I was on all fours screaming in my pillow until it passed. I collapsed on the bed and sobbed. I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted to pain to stop. I held my husbands hand and waited for the anesthesiologist. What seemed like hours later, I woke up. I had finally gotten some real rest. I was able to joke again, tease my husband and hold his hand. I couldn’t feel my legs at all, so they turned off the epidural. I’d need to be able to feel at least a little in order to push.
When the pushing came time, it wasn’t at all what I expected. In the movies I see the crinkled faces and the screaming anguish. But I was drugged and couldn’t feel my legs. I felt the contraction, but barely. Time to push. To me, it felt like I was doing sit ups for an agressive trainer who wont take no for an answer.
With one foot in my mothers hand, the other in my mother in laws and gripping my husbands hand so hard I might break it, I pushed. Ten seconds. Breathe. Repeat.
I’m not sure how long this took, maybe thirty minutes, maybe an hour. And then she was here. Ondine Evelyn Neal, 8lb 15oz, 20inches long. She was purple, and crying. But she cuddled onto my chest, set foot on my belly and was a part of our life from here on out.