I initially wrote this post about 6 months ago. My sister has begged me not to post this. And precisely because of that... here it is. WARNING: I am open and honest. Read at your own risk!
This is the story of Hazel's birth. Do not judge me for I will not judge you.
Since Hazelnut was 5 weeks early, I never made it to the prebirth class in which we watch The Miracle of Life. I also never saw that video in Health class or just for kicks on my own. I read at least 20 books during my pregnancy, but never made it to any of the chapters that talked about the art of giving birth. I thought about packing my hospital bag, but thought that packing it so early would make me a big dork.
So, when my water broke- or more truthfully GUSHED all over my floor- at exactly 5 weeks before the due date, I was NOT ready. I find that fact quite ironic because I really did read every pregnancy book that was given, lent, and available at the local bookstores. I am an EXPERT on pregnancy, I just don't know a THING about delivery. (edit: I had read "Ida May's Guide to Childbirth". I HIGHLY recommend this book to any expecting mother. It is inspiring to read positive birth stories as opposed to all the western medicine horror stories that are commonly shared.)
Let's go back to the water breaking. The books (I read these parts after I got home from the hospital) describe water breaking as a small trickle. They say that it's not something to worry about because it's rare that it breaks without warning and if it does, there's hardly any water. NOT THE CASE FOR ME! I had no warnings that day (in fact, I had felt so good that I had decided to increase my exercising so I'd be in shape for delivery. I had gone swimming for the first time in my pregnancy that afternoon!) and though the initial sensation was with just a tiny bit of water, by the time I was standing at my dresser preparing to change my clothing, I was a walking Old Faithful (if I had been standing on my head).
So, I yelled "Jake...I'm leaking" and he sprung into action, calling the hospital, calling our Doctor, racing around the house trying to figure out what to pack. I was limited to the linoleum floor, but was able to get the necessities packed. Off we go in the car, with a towel wedged in my pants and more towels on the seat :) My cool, calm, collected husband was excited and nervous and kept trying to make wrong turns on the way to the hospital (side note: he WORKS at this hospital). So, I guided him there.
I arrived at the hospital and was whisked into the l&d room and with concentration I thought that maybe I did feel some slight cramping. WOOHOO... I can handle this! EASY! My goal was to have a natural labor and delivery... that is without any modern interventions or medications. So, I rolled out my yoga mat (which my sister- the only person that I called to tell I was in labor- found HILARIOUS. Before anyone gets offended, I called my sister because 1. she's my sister; 2. her time zone made it evening, not the middle of the night like the rest of our families; 3. she lives in a tent in Alaska and I never imagined that she'd actually answer- she just happened to be sitting in her tent with an antenna plugged into her phone at that very minute!) and asked for a yoga ball to sit and lean on. I've spent 10 years practicing yoga off and on and 20 years studying the art of singing, so I know a lot of breathing techniques.
As the contractions began to intensify I focused on staying calm and entering a state of total relaxation each time the contractions subsided. I can honestly say that I never once felt the need for pain medication during contractions. The only times the contractions were unbearable occurred when I was laying on the bed for an exam. Lying down is definitely contrary to nature when you are in labor! Don't get me wrong, the contractions were intense, but they ebb and flow and there's a brief respite between them. I pictured them as ocean waves and that helped keep the intensity in perspective. However, once my contractions started, they were intense and plentiful. I never had long periods of rest between them. I found it most comfortable to sit on the toilet and ball or kneel/lean over the yoga ball for the entire evening.
Finally, around 6 am (water broke around 9:30 pm) my Doctor told me that I was almost ready to push and that he'd be back in 15 minutes. Exactly 7 minutes later I told Jake to get the Doctor PRONTO because I could not wait to push. It's amazing how your body really knows how to go about this crazy delivery process!
I should mention that all during this time I kept my eyes SHUT. I think it helped me stay calm and in my happy place to have my eyes closed. I peeked maybe once or twice, but otherwise I was in my own world. My Doctor came back to the room and teased me for being impatient. He talked us through a quick crash course on how to push, I could NOT pay attention, but kudos to him for trying.
THE PUSHING BEGINS... It was hard for me to hold my breath while pushing, a yogi breathes through pain. It was hard for me to keep my legs relaxed, it was hard for me to push while Jake counted to 10, it was hard for me stay cute, dainty, and quiet... That's when I became a creature from another galaxy. With my eyes closed, I "politely" told everyone to STOP telling me what to do and to STOP touching me! The Doctor told everyone that I was doing fine on my own and that they should just let me do things my own way. So the Nurse and CNA (a dear friend who just happened to be on duty! Thanks Kathy!) dropped my legs and Jake stopped counting. At some earlier point, I had Jake sit behind me on my bed so that he could help me sit up, massage my back, wipe my brow, and hold me. We had intended for him to catch the baby, but after it was all over, Jake was so happy with the arrangement. He really felt part of the birth and in tune with me.
So, with Jake supporting my weight and letting my hands squeeze his legs until they lost blood flow, I PUSHED. OH MY GOD (and I'm not using that word in vain). At one point I got mad at the Doctor because I just KNEW that if he would just let me go the the bathroom, that I would feel better... he still refused and informed me that I could just poop there if I needed to (pretty sure I didn't- in case you really wanted to know). Then I could feel the head and I became TERRIFIED because it was obvious to me that she/he was not going to fit! By now I was in such intense pain that I stopped paying attention to the contractions and rested and pushed when I felt like it. Ok, at this point I didn't feel like ever pushing because it was such an intense pain when I pushed, but I knew that it was the only way to end the pain... PUSH!!!!!!!
I believe it was just 15 minutes or was it 45? I truly don't know. However, the babe finally made it out and was promptly placed on my chest (as per my Birth Plan). Jake later told me that he was surprised at how I immediately lifted my bra and started to feed HER. I have dim memories of being too stunned by the intensity of delivery to really feel much emotion at that point in time. However, I knew that SHE was gorgeous.
EDIT: In the months following Hazel's birth, I couldn't say for sure whether I would be brave enough in the future to have another unmedicated birth. It took me a full 6 weeks to be able to walk comfortably and a full 6 months to say that yes, I will go unmedicated next time! For Hazel's birth, I was naive and by the time I knew about the pain, it was too late to do anything. However, Hazel was healthy, undrugged, and aware and I was able to listen to my body, feel my body's cues, and I don't have chronic back pain (a common side effect from epidurals!). I'm proud of myself for giving birth and fully in love with the little bean that grew inside me.