It was somewhere around the 28 week mark that it finally sank in that I was about to give birth. My most recent sonogram hit me between the eyes like a 2×4, and I realized at some point that the beautiful child I already loved was going to have to find a way out of me to make his entrance into the world. I stopped and asked myself, “What do you really know about birth?” My first thought was that it hurt, an epidural was a shot they could give me to make it not hurt, and that I’d lay in bed and push him out the old fashioned way. Cesarean sections scared me, so I knew I wanted to avoid one of those if possible, but if the baby needed it, I’d be ok with it too. Then I pulled up Google, and that’s when the panic hit.
Fast forward a week (and a lot of research), and I contacted my doula, Liz, to set up a meeting to feel her out. I was worried about her being militantly against pain medicine, as I was for sure set on getting an epidural (at this point, even after all the other things I researched, I had yet to look into what an epidural was). I had a preconceived idea that all doulas and midwives were so into natural birth that my wishes would be ignored and I would be made to feel guilty about using an intervention if I wanted one. I made my husband, Kristopher, go with me because I was super nervous, and I also wanted him to be the one to ask how much it cost. We met at the Starbucks, and Liz put me at ease immediately. I threw it out there that I was probably going to get an epidural, and she said that she would be with me regardless of what choice I made. Boy was I surprised! And then I felt a little bad for lumping all doulas and midwives together and assuming they’d be pushy. We talked for a while, and even though I didn’t tell her (or my husband!) at the time, my mind was made up that she’d be the one to help educate me. That’s what I really wanted more than anything, someone that dealt with birth all the time to answer my questions and to reassure me that it was possible to give birth. I know it sounds silly, but once that fear creeps in, it can take hold and you can start to second guess yourself.
Liz came to our house several times and spent HOURS answering my questions and sharing information, all the while this knowledge was instilling the confidence I needed to be mentally, emotionally, and physically ready for the birth. At some point I researched what an epidural was, and far from being a ‘shot’ it was actually more serious than I expected. My mom is a quadriplegic, and while rare, an epi can sometimes cause paralysis. When I read that, it really freaked me out. Maybe it’s the front row seat I’ve had to her journey, but I decided then that no matter how painful it was, I was not going to have an epidural. I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage that, but Liz helped with that too!
Thanksgiving arrived and I was SO hopefully that my little baby would be born over the holiday so that my husband could spend the extra days off with us. That didn’t happen, and I soon found my estimated due date fast approaching. About three days before I was due I had a doctor’s appointment where they wanted to check my fluid to make sure he was still doing ok. While in there, they also took his measurements. I thought all was well until I arrived at my doctor’s office and she burst in and said that my baby was so large! This was a major surprise since I had lost 30 pounds in pregnancy due to all day morning sickness, and every other sonogram showed him right on target size wise. She said he was measuring well over eight pounds and that he could even be into the nine pound range by birth.
It was a Wednesday afternoon and she said the good news was she had an opening for an induction on that Friday. I stared in shock and took a second to collect my thoughts. She said she knew I wanted to go the natural route, but at this point my baby could be too big and could get stuck during the birthing process if we let him grow any bigger. I didn’t know what to say! I felt blindsided! After much discussion and many refusals on my part, I left her office determined to at least wait until a week after my due date, but also completely in tears with the feeling that I was risking my son’s life. I made it down the elevator and I stopped and called Liz. I was almost in a full blown panic. Was I hurting my son? I would do ANYTHING for him to arrive healthy and perfect. Doctors sure do know how to beat you over the head with what could go wrong.
Liz calmed me and reminded me that I didn’t have to make a decision right that second, that I needed to go home, talk with my husband, and weigh each set of risks. Either way they both had risks, and I had to choose one set over the other and be at peace about it. I had been sitting at 4cm for almost two weeks. I really felt like he was going to come on his own, so we made the decision to wait.
By 2am Sunday morning, labor had begun! Being the newbie that I was, I just assumed it was more Braxton Hicks and rolled over to go back to sleep. A little after 4am I awoke with a start to the most intense contraction. It stopped and I thought to myself, “Could this be it?!!” I quietly got out of bed and boom, another hit. I didn’t think too much about it and decided to take a quick shower to shave my legs just in case I really was in labor. While in the shower I had several more contractions, all the while not putting two and two together that they were getting kind of close. After the shower, I started pacing the floor and that’s when my husband woke up and asked if I was ok. I told him I thought I was in labor, but that since it was my fist baby, we would have many hours to go. He asked me if I had timed them yet and I said that the contraction timer was wrong because it kept saying they were 3-4 minutes apart. I told him to go sleep in the guest room and I’d come get him when it was closer.
At this point I didn’t realize that he had timed me himself on his phone, and being a little more with it than I was at that second, he started quickly loading the car up. He came in and told me to call Liz and I argued that it was the wee hours of the morning and we should let her sleep until we needed her. He promised me it wasn’t too early and that I just needed to call. I tried calling but didn’t get an answer, so my husband made me get into the car to go to the hospital. At the time I was pretty mad, because I was convinced that we would get there too early and I wouldn’t deliver fast enough and they’d induce me. My water still had not broken and my crazy brain kept telling me the clock was wrong. We made the drive from Portland into Corpus and into the hospital. We checked in and they made me sit in a wheel chair to go to L&D (I wanted to walk since sitting hurt). I looked up and the first thing I heard was, “Hi Mrs. Harig!” Nothing like having one of your students’ mom say hi in one breath and have you strip and sit for a cervical check in the next! I think I said something along the lines of “I’m glad you see a lot of pregnant naked women all the time! “
The check revealed that I was at least 7cm dilated and that my waters were still intact. I had done so well managing pain, but then transition quickly hit, I really started feeling anxious, and I got a shot of something into my IV. It made me instantly vomit, and I felt so loopy and weird. This is where it’s a blur to me. It feels like I had the baby right after that, but in reality it was a few hours later. The IV pain meds slowed my labor down. Somewhere around that time it was shift change and I vaguely remember a new nurse coming in. At this point I was so focused on each contraction and breathing through them that there’s a lot I don’t remember about those hours. A little after 8am I was told it was time to push. Up to this point I had annoyed them all by refusing to lay in bed and I kept walking around because moving was the only thing that helped the pain. Staying in bed made it too intense, but as long as I could walk, it was completely manageable.
To my immense relief, Liz got my message and arrived in time for my crazy quick birth. I pushed for a few minutes and that’s when the nurse panicked and said “STOP PUSHING!!!” I was trying to fight the contraction and keep the baby in while they went to find the doctor. He rushed in, put on some gloves, and all I had to do was relax and barely push and the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen made his entrance into the word. And it should be noted that far from the ‘huge’ baby they had predicted, my perfect little boy weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces. He made one little cry and then stopped and looked around at everyone. He was already so curious from the moment he was born at 8:45am, four and a half short hours after active labor had begun.
All I remember was crying and staring at him, I was so overcome with joy and love. My husband says I kept saying I love you over and over and over to him. I guess that oxytocin was really flowing!! It was an intense birth, but I was so happy it was quick, manageable, and that no interventions had to be used. Liz really helped me get breastfeeding going, and after a short one day stay at the hospital, we headed home. She came by the house a few days later to check on me again, and made sure breastfeeding was going well (here we are at 5 months and we’re still going strong!).
For those of you that are pregnant and have never had kids, I want to encourage you to find a friend or two that you can talk with honestly once the baby has arrived. Those first couple weeks are hard, and it is so much help to be able to confide in someone else that has been where you are and knows what you are going through. Quite by accident two friends from junior high/ high school that I hadn’t really kept in much contact with became a support group for me. The three of us all had our babies within 10 days of each other, and Dara, Amber, and I started a continuous e-mail about what was happening each day. I could just hug those girls for listening to my fears and triumphs.
Birth is beautiful! I have such an amazing feeling of success and confidence in myself! It is so empowering to create a human being, carry him in your womb for nine (ten) months, and then be able to have the strength and will to push him out. I feel so blessed to be his mother, and I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful, loving, and supportive husband that has been one amazing dad. If you’re ever in a place of fear, educate yourself and have the confidence to birth on your own terms.