Once it has been determined that I am officially being admitted to the hospital, my mom begins pushing for the IV to get the antibiotics into my system for the Group B Strep. The sooner I finish the IV the sooner I can move about, and the doctor wants them administered 4 hours prior to delivery, so it's time to get things moving...
Things get a bit hazy at this point as the pain really starts to pick up. I'm breathing heavily through each contraction with a low guttural moan often escaping my lips. Josh is on one side of the bed, my mom is on the other and as a contraction hits I grab one hand from each of them, close my eyes and begin breathing and moaning through the pain.
Slowly but surely, I'm getting through each contraction and suddenly a big one hits. And, as it starts to come down, I feel the intensity rise up again and realize that I'm about to have one contraction right on top of another. Unfortunately, Olivia didn't handle the intensity so well. My mom sees her heart rate drop on the monitor and calmly tells me to turn onto my left side. As I roll over, two nurses come into the room, and while they are speaking to me in a calm voice, I can tell that they're panicked. The oxygen mask is quickly placed over my nose, and I'm encouraged to take long deep breaths. Thankfully, Olivia's heart rate rebounds, but they obviously want to keep monitoring things for a bit. Quite scary and I'm hoping that doesn't happen again...
At some point, my IV is started and I'm transferred from triage to a birthing room. I'm still in the bed, but I've got my support team on either side of me and I'm introduced to my labor nurse, Jane, who may as well have had a halo around her head. She was amazing - kind, intelligent and warm - exactly the kind of person you want by your side at a time like this.
She wants to keep the saline in the IV for now, because in her experience, natural births just go smoother when you stay hydrated. Since I can't really imagine moving my body at this point and I trust her instincts, we go ahead with that plan and I continue laboring in the bed for a bit.
As the pain gets more intense and my reaction to it gets louder, Jane asks me if I want to move and I tell her that yes, I do. I want to get on that birthing ball. So she unhooks me from the IV, and I get situated. I'm sitting on the ball facing the bed (which Jane has lowered so I can lean on my forearms), Josh is sitting behind me putting counterpressure on my lower back, and my mom is leaning over the other side of the bed so I can grasp both of her hands through each contraction.
Folks, in this position is where I felt, what has to be the most intense pain of my life. My voice was literally shaking as I was groaning through the contractions. It was as if I wanted to jump outside of my own skin - escape my own body that was overwrought with pain. The best way I can describe it, my pelvis felt like a wishbone that someone was trying to pull into two pieces. I remember thinking that I hoped to God I was in transition because if this was the worst of it, I could survive. Otherwise, Lord help me...
But, it was also in this moment that I felt more love pouring from either side of me than I can even begin to describe. They - my mom and my husband - were rooting for me, encouraging me, loving me. I could feel them wanting to take the pain away from me, but they were with me in it, letting me draw from their strength and helping me to push forward. My mother holding my grasp reminding me to breathe, and Josh in my ear telling me what an amazing job I was doing. I'll never forget it or their support...
And, then there's the increasingly brief moments between the contractions. It is the strangest sensation, but I could literally feel the endorphins rushing through my body relaxing me. My muscles would go limp and I probably looked almost asleep. I also felt exhausted, but I knew my body was working to allow for as much recovery in between contractions as possible. And, I gladly took it.
As I'm laboring, I am suddenly feeling intense pressure and the urge to push. I am, of course, encouraged to do nothing of the sort just yet, but as the next contraction hits, I can feel my body involuntarily bearing down. And, then...a loud POP! My water finally broke! And, the first words out of my mouth to my husband sitting behind me are, "Josh, oh my God, your shoes!" Thankfully, his shoes were fine :).
Jane then has me lean back into Josh's arms while still on the birthing ball as she checks my progress and announces that I'm at 8 to 9 cms - I imagine the strange angle made it hard to be exact. Once I here that number, I want to jump for joy because I know we're getting close and I am definitely in the throes of transition. This is supposed to be the worst of it and I'm hanging in there. I can do this!
While I had no sense of time at this point, it must have been about 8:00 pm - I've been at the hospital for 3 hours and in labor for 12 1/2. I continue swaying on the birthing ball with my labor support team in position. At some point, I'm aware that my OB has entered the room (It was actually one of her partners, whom I also love. Since I didn't get to the hospital until about 5:00 pm and she was the one on call, she was there for the delivery). I remember seeing her in the room and thinking, "What? Am I that close to pushing out this baby!?!?!"
A few more contractions come and go and I keep having this involuntary urge to bear down. Jane suggests that I go ahead and get into the bed and try a couple of pushes. She adjusts things accordingly, hooks up the squat bar and I assume the position. If I remember correctly, they checked me again and I only had a lip of cervix remaining.
To be honest, at first, I was almost afraid to push. Am I doing this right? Am I going to destroy my girly bits? Am I ready to push out this possibly huge baby? Oh my God, is this really happening!?! But, once I'd gotten over my initial fears, I have to say, it felt so good to finally have somewhere to channel my energy and pain. And, Jane said basically those exact words to me. She told me that this was no longer just happening to me, but I was now an active participant in bringing my baby into this world. Boy, was she right! And, while I know there is much debate on the subject of whether or not finally being able to push is a relief, and for many women it isn't... For me, that was 100 percent the case.
After a few pushes, the doctor checks me again to make sure that that last lip of cervix is gone and it is. Ladies and gentleman, here we are - the moment of truth. It's time for me to bring my baby girl into the world.
I'm pushing in the squatting position and holding onto the bar. As each contraction ends, I sit on the edge of the bed and get a bit of relief before the next one comes. Initially, I'm moaning and groaning through the pushing, but Jane encourages me to hold all that in and use that energy to push. So, the next contraction comes and I do just that. We stay in this position for a bit, until my legs get tired from the up and down, at which point I lean back a bit and rest my legs on the bar.
As the contractions come, my mom holds one leg, Jane holds another and Josh is right there in my ear, brushing the hair from my face and holding a cold washcloth to my chest. And, in those transcendent moments a contraction comes and I reach deep down and push with everything I've got. I closed my eyes and just went for it - no fear. And, resounding in my head were the voices of two people I love more than anything. Josh kept telling me what an amazing job I was doing and how proud he was of me. My mom was in my ear saying, "Harder, harder - push harder - she's almost here... Now take a deep breath and push again! Lisa, you're doing so great!" Those words were everything to me.
I knew we were really close when the doctor announced that Olivia had a full head of dark hair! I should have known, just like her mommy as a baby... I was feeling the "ring of fire" as they call it, but to be honest it wasn't as terrible as I would have imagined. I felt things stretching as Olivia descended and the doctor was doing her best to help things along. As I was waiting for the next contraction, the doctor encouraged me to take as quick of a breath as possible and keep pushing. So, I did just that.
And, when the next contraction came I gave it everything I had and I felt my daughter coming into this world. As that contraction stopped and I waited for the next one, I could barely even lean back - she was right there and I knew it. So, when another contraction quickly came, I went for it once again. One big push and I felt, what must have been her head. A quick breath and another push, and I gave birth to the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. At 9:03 pm, after 30 minutes of pushing, my baby girl was here.
They held her up and I was filled with such exhilaration and awe. I first commented on how big she was (she had the most adorable state puff marshmallow arms and legs) and that I thought she looked like me (after reflecting on some baby pictures, we would later realize just how true this was). I was too ecstatic to even cry. This was my daughter! And, she was healthy and beautiful and I did it. I don't know if I've ever felt more amazing or been more proud in my whole life.
Josh cut the cord and they immediately placed Olivia on my chest. Josh and I just kept staring at her in wonder. This beautiful baby that we've been waiting to meet for 9 months, this baby we made. We were looking at her... There is just nothing like that moment.
In the meantime, the doctor was tugging on the remainder of the umbilical cord in an attempt to deliver the placenta. She asked me to give a bit of a push, at which point, I was like, "What! I don't know if I have it in me." But, one tiny push and out it came. And, then my OB gave me probably the strangest compliment I've ever received when she told me I had one of the best looking placentas she'd ever seen. Seriously... She even showed it to me and said it probably weighed 5 pounds. Awesome :).
I was then given some shots of a local anesthetic and the doctor went to work repairing my second degree tear. Thankfully, it was pretty mild and only through the first layer of skin. It was my biggest fear about delivery and I still can't believe how minor it was with my daughter's 14 1/2 inch head. I grimaced when I felt a few pricks and there was a bit of pulling while the stitches were going in, but all in all, it was pretty quick and painless. I was also given some Pitocin in my IV to help my uterus contract.
In the midst of all this, Josh and I continue staring at our daughter for what feels like an eternity. Then, my mom helped me to get Olivia latched on and we tried out breastfeeding a bit. Thankfully, she took to it well, and we finally let Jane get her cleaned up and do all the necessary medical tidbits (length, weight, Apgar, etc.). She quickly gave us back our beautiful baby wrapped up like a burrito, and we basked in the joy of parenthood.
Once situated, we were excited to get our families in to see Olivia. My mom retrieved the rest of the grandparents from the waiting room to see their granddaughter, followed by the rest of our siblings. It was so incredibly special that every single one of them made it to the hospital that night. I think we had eleven people in that birthing room, in addition to our little family and the flashbulbs were going!
Looking back, I don't even know how to explain the emotional high of that night. I just kept saying over and over, "I can't believe I did it... I can't believe I did it!" And, I was continually thanking everyone in the room - my doctor, Jane, my mom and Josh. I know that each one of those people made it possible for me to have the birth experience that I did, and I am so indebted to them, their love, and their skill for being a part of it. I take nothing away from what I accomplished, but I also know that I couldn't have done it alone.
In the hours that followed there was food (chicken fingers and French fries, because I earned it!!), adoration (it blows your mind how much time you can spend staring at one tiny person), we got settled in our room and finally tried to get some sleep around 2:00 am.
Your whole world really does change in that moment, and your heart fills with more love than you ever thought possible. My husband is the love of my life, and our daughter is the culmination of that love. Simply...life is good and blessed, and I am happy.