As with most birth stories, this one contains extremely graphic details that will make some of you sick to your stomach. Reader discretion is highly advised.
On Monday night, the night before I went into labor, I was feeling really discouraged. I’d had this exchange with Dr. Fabulous at my 40-week appointment. I felt cornered and out of control of my own body and pregnancy. Again.
Being the stubborn, determined, hormonal mess that I am, however, I wasn’t about to go down without a fight. I went so far as speaking with a midwife friend in Miami, who contacted a local midwife, who offered to take me as a patient to birth at her facility. It’s no secret that I am terrified of a C-section, so I definitely considered making the switch. I decided to sleep on it.
Specifically, I decided to put some Evening Primrose Oil gel capsules into my hoo-ha and sleep on it.
Tuesday, Chris and I did . . . ahem, a few things to encourage labor as well. My mom even went to the pharmacy and tempted me with a bottle of Castor oil. (Thankfully, I decided to hold off on that.) Finally, for dinner, Chris and I ordered some crazy-spicy Chow Fun noodles from our new favorite Chinese food restaurant.
Oh yeah, I was pulling out every trick in the book.
While inhaling a giant pile of flaming-hot noodles, I started to feel . . . something. Some kind of pain low in my belly. A little bit of lower back discomfort. Cramping.
We put the girls to bed. They were being astoundingly, perfectly adorable — more so than usual, if that’s possible. As I kissed them good-night and looked into their luminescent, marble-wide eyes, I was overcome by a heartbreaking wave of sadness. It could be the last time I put them to bed as their Ama as they knew me: present, dedicated, unshared. I missed them terribly already. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
Afterwards, I was still feeling the pain so Chris and I took a two-mile walk. The moon was huge and full in the sky. I willed its gravitational pull to do something to help. We halfheartedly started timing the pain — every 10 minutes. Sometimes, I had to stop for a second to squeeze Chris’ hand.
Back at home, I showered and started putting my last-minute necessities into my hospital bag. I was afraid to jinx any progress I was making, though, so I stopped packing and sat down on an exercise ball to watch TV. By this point, I was pretty sure that what I was feeling were contractions. They were coming every six minutes when I was seated on the ball and it wasn’t very long before I couldn’t talk through them.
At about 10:30 or 11 p.m., I retreated to our bedroom to concentrate. Though it was undeniable that I was in labor, I was still having a hard time believing it. But the contractions were getting strong, awful. I started humming and moaning every time I felt one coming on, which helped me focus my attention on something other than the increasingly terrible pain. I bounced on the ball. I hung on Chris’ neck and swayed. I did squats while holding onto the towel bar. I sat on the toilet. We took another short walk around the block.
I was the perfect picture of a woman laboring at home.
What continued to throw me off was that, every time I stood up, the contractions would come fast, frequent and strong but shorter — every 2-3 minutes, lasting about 45 seconds. When I sat on the ball, they would space out but last twice as long — every 5 minutes, lasting about a minute and a half. The irregularity really confused me. I thought that “true” labor contractions would be textbook spaced regularly and last about a minute.
I decided to take a bath. Holy mother of water labor, that was awesome. I even shaved my legs. When a contraction would come, I would rub my upper thighs and say to myself over and over “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.” I tried to watch my body as I would a piece of art. My uterus sang to the full moon, my belly button pointing to the sky as it tightened around my baby.
I was doing this. I was laboring at home.
(HAHA FUCK YOU, DR. FABULOUS!!)
One detail that I have to throw in here, and surely it’s going to sound pretty disturbing, is that Chris and I did the deed at this point. Yes, we had sex. While I was in labor. Through my contractions. My thinking was that I didn’t want to stop any progress and, aside from the contractions, I still wasn’t sure what else to do or think about what was going on.
After sex, my mucous plug came out in giant, gory, bloody chunks.
My heart raced. Shiiiiit. Shit shit shit.
Honey, it’s time. I think I’m really in labor, yo!
At this point, some time after 1 in the morning, things got pretty hairy. I was in the living room, then I wasn’t. I was in the bedroom, then I was back in the living room. I was on the exercise ball, then I was on the couch. The contractions were out of control and my mental state was quickly deteriorating. Chris asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital, and I would later be extremely glad that I finally said yes.
I was trying to finish packing my bag, but because I was standing and walking, the contractions were one on top of the other. I would desperately scramble for the exercise ball as I felt one coming on. I begged my body to give me a break so that I could finish getting ready. This seemed to be happening much faster than I’d anticipated. Chris woke my mom to tell her we were leaving, and somewhere amid all the pain I found myself in the car, humming and moaning and shifting gingerly through every contraction that wracked my body.
The car ride seemed fast and we pulled up to the main entrance of the hospital before I realized where we were. Chris unpacked everything and went in search of someone to help, but much to my panic, it was a total ghost town. He packed everything back up and drove frantically to the emergency entrance. Someone put me in a wheelchair. Someone else pushed us up to Labor and Delivery. I continued to moan and sing through every contraction.
When we got to L&D some time after 2 in the morning, I kind of started to hate people. I was in the process of dying, and they wanted my insurance card and driver’s license. I was taken to a room and handed a gown to change and use the restroom. These mother fuckers wanted me to walk, when walking made the contractions come relentlessly.
Then, the nurse started with the questions.
“Are you in an abusive relationship? How much did you weigh at you last doctor’s visit? When did you start prenatal care? What is your social security number?”
Are you fucking kidding me?
Between questions and contractions, I couldn’t even open my eyes. I would retreat to some far corner of rest and peace. I had no idea what the nurse looked like, but I did know her name was Sheera.
This, as it turned out, would be a telling portent.
Another nurse asked if I wanted an epidural and I’m pretty sure my reaction included a fireworks show and doggy parade. I blindly started signing consent forms, but the process was taking forever. First, they had to start an IV line. The first attempt blew a vein. Then, they wanted to draw blood AND send it for testing before I could get the anesthesia.
Surely this was a cruel, sick joke. Surely someone would have mercy on me and bring me a shot of whiskey, a hammer, something to stop the pain.
Sheera finally finished her data entry and decided to check my progress.
“Oh my,” she gasped as she inserted the better part of her fist into me. “Ummmm. My best guess is an 8-and-a-half and your bag of waters is bulging. I can’t feel both sides of your cervix.”
FUCKING SHIT 8.5 CENTIMETERS? Fucking shit fucking shit. I hadn’t planned to wait that long. I was thinking more like 5 centimeters, show up and get the epidural, watch some TV, get my last nap in before giving birth.
“Where is the anesthesiologist?” I moaned. “Please someone get me something to take away this pain!”
“It’s too late for any narcotics,” Sheera said. My heart sank. “Look, you’ve made it this far. You have so much control of your body. Do you want to try for a natural birth?”
A what?!? This, my friends, was something I had not planned on.
I didn’t know what to do or say. Birthing without drugs was something I’d wanted with my first pregnancy with the girls before we found out that I was having twins. I believe in natural birth and the power of a woman’s body to birth without unnecessary medical intervention. But for me? Sorry, but I felt real contractions during my labor with the twins and I wanted nothing to do with that nonsense ever again. No thanks.
And yet, there I was, showing up at the hospital practically pushing. If I was going to try it, this was the perfect chance.
Sheera continued. “You can wait for the epidural, which will take 15-20 minutes after going in to take effect. Or in that same time, you can be breastfeeding your new baby. It’s completely up to you.”
Oh fer Jesus Christ’s son of a bitching fucking shit whore bitch goddamn it shit.
Well if you put it that way, Sheera, let’s do this shit.
I was now at 9 centimeters. Dr. Fabulous’ partner, Dr. Pretty Awesome, was on call that night. He came in and broke my water and left the room. Within two minutes, I was at 10 centimeters and I had absolutely no control over myself anymore. I HAD to push and I HAD to do it RIGHT NOW and JESUS CHRIST I NEED TO PUSH OR I NEED TO POOP AND I CAN’T STOP IT I CAN’T STOP IT I’M PUSHING!!!
Sheera ran to the phone. “Get the doctor, she’s pushing!”
The doctor came in as my uterus and body pushed involuntarily. The pain was so violent, so all-encompassing, I was afraid of it. My legs resisted as Sheera helped me to pull my knees back and bear down.
Suddenly, I changed my mind about the whole natural childbirth thing. This was ridiculous. How could anyone survive what I was feeling?
“I CAN’T! I CAN’T DO THIS! I change my mind, I can’t do this!”
Dr. Pretty Awesome stated the obvious: “It’s too late!”
I continued to cry out, panicking and panting, insisting I couldn’t continue. “Open your eyes. You need to focus! Open your eyes and look at me!” Sheera urged. “You can do this. Push where you feel the pressure.”
And I did.
I pushed. And I felt the baby’s head emerging. I felt my entire body stretching, accommodating her size. They told me to stop pushing so I wouldn’t tear. I panted my way through as many involuntary urges to push as I could before I just couldn’t hold back anymore.
They told me to push again. And I did. I felt her whole body pull from me at the same time that I felt nothing. I was completely in the moment at the same time that I was completely somewhere else. All I knew was that if I accepted the pain now, I would be done forever and ever, amen.
The cessation of fear and agony was sudden and immediate. One moment, I was pregnant and the next moment, I wasn’t. One moment, I was completely overcome by pain and the next moment, I wasn’t.
She was born. She was born and she was out here, and she wasn’t in there, and I was in pain and then I wasn’t and everything was suddenly and swiftly complete and only just beginning.
“She’s absolutely beautiful! What’s her name?” sang the nurses.
“Amaia!” I proudly pronounced. “Her name is Amaia.”