Sooo, where was I almost one year ago when I was in the middle of telling y'all my birth story?
Ah yes, I was in labor, and had been for about 17 hours. And I was having a blast. I mean, there was some pain, yes, but it wasn't that extreme. It was getting more intense and yet not overwhelmingly so. I was breathing through it -- dancing through it with my husband in fact.
I felt like I was made for this.
Like I was the original earth mama.
The doctor thought my water had broken on it's own and so I thought I must be in transition. The pain was increasing by little fits and starts, but it was oh so doable.
What had all those women throughout history been bitching about? This was easy.
The doctor came in for an exam, and while she was, um, examining (Hey Grandaddy!) she did the darndest thing.
"Hmmm," She said, "I guess your water didn't break on it's own. Mind if I break it."
"Sure," I said, figuring what the hell right?
And with was seemed like the slightest slip of her fingers, she broke my water.
And I suddenly understood.
In an instant, and when I say instant I mean that a millisecond would be an overestimation, everything changed. I went from Earth Mother to panicked individual without a clue as what to do. Because suddenly, there was pain -- pain the likes of which I'd never experienced. It was immediate, all encompassing and really very...painful.
And I had no idea what to do.
Now, I really wanted to have an unmedicated birth because, well, I thought it would be cool. I wanted to get inside the pain of childbirth and have that exclusive experience that all mother's have shared throughout all of human history. But I was pretty sure I couldn't do it on my own, so Dave and I hired Debra Day, a wonderful local midwife who also does labor support.
Up until the time my water broke, she had pretty much been hanging back, as Dave and I seemed to have in under control.
But suddenly I was out of control and way out of ideas.
"Help me!" I whimpered.
And like a superhero out of comic book by mothers, for mothers, Debra Day swooped in. She put her hands on my abdomen and gave me specific instructions what to do. Breath into her hands. Focus on my breath.
And like a super hero, she saved me.
For the next four hours, I was in transition. For those of you who don't know, transition is when the baby is making her final descent through the birth canal. It's typically the most painful stage of labor.
I've tried to describe this pain, and the best I can do is characterize it as rolling. Or maybe roiling. I imagine it's how the ocean feels during a particularly strong storm. It's punctuated by contractions, which, if I remember conrrect were less like the sharp stabbing pains that people seem to have in the movies, and more just an intensification of this general feeling of rolling/roiling pain.
The pain stripped me down to my core, to what I have come to think of as my animal self. I didn't speak so much as moan. My eyes were mostly closed. I became very...basic.
Dealing with the pain became my primary concern. I did breathing excercises. I felt best when I could move about. I found that hanging on Dave whilst moaning during a contraction was very effective.
I was no longer a paragon of labor love. In fact, I tried to run away. I bolted. I'm not not sure where I was was going or what my plan was, but all I knew was that I was done with this particular situation. I didn't get more that half a foot from where I was before Debra and Dave caught me and talked me down.
And I made a decision that yes, in fact, I did want medication. I reasoned with my self that thought I had wanted a natural birth, it was just too hard and therefor I was going to ask for medication and get it and that would be just fine.
When I asked the doctor for the meds, she explained to me that it was too late for the really good ones. And this is where I got lucky. She encouraged me to continue without them. She knew I wanted a natural birth and knew I could get through rest of the labor without meds.
Thank you Donelle Oliver!
In the end, I was completely naked, sitting on a chair in the shower. Dave was spraying me with warm water. When I felt a contraction come on, I would stand up and lean on Dave. And when the contraction passed, I would sit back down.
This went on for quite a while.
Did I mention I have an amazing, incredible, super husband?
Well, I do.
At some point, I stopped progressing, dilation wise. I think I was stuck at like, 8 centimeters. And I realized something. I was afraid to become a parent. It's not that I didn't want Lisel to be born, it's just that I was scared of letting go of my past, and entering the this unknown future where there was going to be so much at stake. And so, between contractions, I tried to get down with letting go of all that fear -- the fear of the loss of the Elizabeth that was, the fear of meeting the daughter I was soon to take care of and the fear pf meeting the mother I was soon to be.
And when I let go of that fear, my labor started progressing again.
Then, after four hours I was ready to push. And it was the weirdest thing. Suddenly, I was back to the modern Elizabeth. I could open my eyes and I had a sense of myself. I could crack jokes. I was kind of awesome.
For my first push, I let out a monster scream, like they do in the movies. It was my right, right?
"So you know all that energy you put into screaming," said Debra "Put it into pushing."
Ummm, no scream. No one had told me about that.
So for my next push I didn't scream. Instead I made a crazy pushy squishy face.
"So, you know all that energy you put into making that squishy face," said Dr. Oliver, "Put it into pushing."
The best metaphor for pushing that I can think of is learning how to swing a golf club. There were lots of instructions, all of which needed to be done simultaneously, and few of which seemed intuitive. You know, in golf it's all "Keep your head down, and your shoulder's square and your hips...however you're suposed to keep your hips. And go!" With pushing it was "Lift here, pull here, push here but not there."
For my final push, I let out my second monster scream. But it really was my right, as the baby was making her exit.
I wish I had kept my eyes open and seen the actual birth, but alas, they were closed. You'll have to ask Dave, my sister, my mother, Dave's mom, or Dave's Dad what it looked like.
Oh, did I forget to mention that they were all in the room when I gave birth? I was naked as a jaybird, legs spread wide, and all I wanted to do was share the experience with whom ever wanted to be there.
It was awesome.
And then, Lisel was being placed on my chest. And I looked down at my daughter, who had just gone on a crazy trip of her own, and who was having her first experiences in this outside world, and I was just taken.
"We did it," I said to her. "We made it."
And suddenly, we were a family of three